The somber Inspector--even more somber than usual this time--arrives in the small town of Fontenay-le-Comte to visit and old colleague. . . just as the town happens to he in the midst of a series of murders. Two have already died: Robert de Courcon, a member of the town's most high-class family (a snobbish clan generally despised by the other townsfolk); and an old widow of no class whatsoever. Furthermore, the town drunk is also murdered (via the same blunt instrument, it seems) on the night of Maigret's arrival. Everyone believes, therefore, that a madman's at work--and suspicion falls on a young, unstable member of the Vernoux/de Courcon family. . . who does indeed wind up a suicide, an apparent admission of guilt. But Maigret, reluctantly roped in, isn't convinced, looking elsewhere (no great surprise) for the murderer--and the solution is a moody variation of Christie's ABC Murders idea. Second-string Maigret, with fewer engaging characters than usual among the suspects.