Book review: Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Thief

Arsene Lupin

Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Thief

by Maurice Leblanc
Published in 1907
Genres: Mystery, Detective, Classics, France, Short Stories
Pages: 279

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Yesterday, I explained to you how 2017 was a Sherlock Holmes year for me.  He seemed to pursue me even further, as the latest Classics Club spin, #16, fell on Arsène Lupin, gentleman-cambrioleur, a somewhat French equivalent to the detective adventures, as I explain below. I obviously read it in French, but present here the cover and the title in English: Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Thief. 

Arsène Lupin, gentleman-cambrioleur (Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Thief) is the first collection of stories by Maurice Leblanc (1864-1941) on a very special kind of burglar. It was published in 1907 and recounts the first 9 adventures of Arsène Lupin.

Arsène is very creative, masterful and witty. He is very peculiar in the sense that he only targets the rich and the powerful of this world, and sometimes robs them in order to generously give money to the poor. He was probably based on a real thief named Marius Jacob.
He acts mischievously and never resorts to violence. He can show up under all kinds of disguises, which allow him for instance to escape nearly impossible situations. He is really fun, and so clever. It’s really hard to guess the endings, with really unexpected twists!

A funny element appears first in the 7th story. I have read that Conan Doyle didn’t appreciate to have his own hero appear in Leblanc’s writing, so he asked the author to change the name. Leblanc turned him into Herlock Sholmes! Actually, Leblanc had been asked to create a French version of Sherlock Holmes, so that’s how his stories started – the first novel is Arsène Lupin vs. Sherlock Holmes!

Like for Conan Doyle (1859-1930)’s works, some stories are inspired by real events. For instance, The Crawford Inheritance is at the base of the story entitled The Safe of Madame Imbert.

In total, Leblanc featured Arsène Lupin in 17 novels and 39 short stories (Sherlock Holmes is in 4 novels and 56 short stories, published between 1887 and 1930)! The latest novel was published posthumously in 2012!

VERDICT: Mischievous, funny, witty, very clever: you will love this great French burglar!

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Who is your favorite fictional burglar?

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9 thoughts on “Book review: Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Thief

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