Crushed by poverty, humiliated by months of fruitless job-hunting, Francois Lecoin felt an overwhelming sense of failure and despair on the day his invalid wife died. Compelled to beg money for the funeral from his wealthy sister-in-law, an idea suddenly came too him, a clever plan of quiet extortion which earned him far more than he ever expected - enough for new clothes, enough to take his belioved son Bob on a holiday to Deauville, enough to cherish the prostitue Viviane whom he had coveted for so long. He becomes enmeshed in a risky career of blackmail, exploiting the weaknesses and vices of people whose shadowy lives are no worse than his own.
With a perceptivea and compassionate eye Simenon portrays a man who is caught in a chain of evil but who struggles to recover his dignity and self-respect. Unhappily, he is too late to save what means most to him and disaster overtakes him in a devastating way.