When I started reading the book, I was a little surprised to see that it had an American setting. When I arrived at the end, I saw that Simenon was living at Shadow Rock Farm in Lakeview, Connecticut, when he wrote it. So I guess that explains the setting.
This is another of those older books that might not stand a chance of getting published today. The first twelve pages are all telling, without even a single line of dialogue. It's clearly building up to something, but it's hard to tell what that something is. Eventually we learn that the watchmaker's son, age 16, has taken the family car and a neighbor's daughter, age 15, and headed off for parts unknown.
Things don't go well for the son, however, and soon he's involved in robbery and murder. All this happens offstage, though. The book's not about that. It's about the father and how he comes to understand and accept what's happened. Depressing stuff. It's also about the media circus and American justice. (Aside: if Simenon thought there was media overkill in the middle '50s when this book was published, he should be around now when the kid would be getting interviewed on national TV by Sean Hannity.)
The ending is as downbeat as you'd expect. Not much hope for change or redemption here.