THE IRON STAIRCASE by Georges Simenon


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A stifling sliver of domestic relations, vintage 1953, from the other Simenon--the maítre of psychological suspense among the penned-up bourgeoisie. The oppressive point-of-view here belongs to bedridden, listening, peeking Etienne, who, fifteen years ago, became the second milquetoasted husband-assistant to stationery-shopowner Louise; husband #1 conveniently withered away and keeled over once young Etienne entered the picture. But now young Etienne is 40-ish Etienne, and he's the one who's withering--and wondering if those daily servings of mashed potatoes are garnished with arsenic. A doctor worriedly confirms his suspicions, but, instead of fleeing, Etienne stays and survives (via self-induced vomiting), living long enough to come face to face with earthy Louise's next choice for resident drone. Etienne's situation is by now (was even by 1953) a commonplace, but Simenon's scenic eye (Etienne's bedroom above the shop, with partial views from the top of the staircase) and the atmosphere clogged with implied eroticism give the Suspicion scenario a distinctly continental texture, that endearing blend of the matter-of-fact with the awkwardly, desperately passionate.

Pub Date: Sept. 28th, 1977
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich