A small-town doctor's identity crisis--in an expert new translation of a so-so 1941 Simenon. The very middle-class doctor in question is Elie Bergelon, who, urged on by materialistic wife Germaine, has finally referred one of his patients--the pregnant wife of low-born, ambitious Jean Cosson--to the ritzy clinic of surgeon Mandalin. But both Bergelon and Mandalin are drunk on the night of the delivery: thanks to slipped forceps (Mandalin's direct fault, Bergelon's responsibility), both mother and baby die. And unhinged husband Cosson begins terrorizing Dr. Bergelon (not Mandalin, whom he doesn't expect to have cared)--with legal actions, with death threats, with verbal abuse on the street. Bergelon must get out of town for a while, all agree--so, strangely, Cosson's vendetta becomes a positive influence on the stifled doctor: he goes off alone to a resort, has an affair, then (when his wife appears on the horizon) drifts around the European coast from Le Havre to Antwerp, considers escaping to Africa (with an old-chum sea captain whom he runs into), has a strange rendezvous in Paris with Cosson (who has now become something of an alter ego), and re-evaluates his life: ""Without the shameful night of the confinement, would he have been going through this present crisis, would he still have been prey to this agonizing need for change?"" Eventually, however-this being the pessimistic world of Simenon's bourgeoisie--Bergelon will return home and renounce his wild thoughts. . . but in his new liaison with a prostitute (the mistress of Cosson, who has left town) a spark of change will perhaps survive. Familiar Simenon themes, sturdily-if a little too obviously--worked through with nice, downbeat specifics.