Title: Arsène Lupin, gentleman cambrioleur.
Series: Arsène Lupin #1.
Writer(s): Maurice Leblanc.
Publisher: Le Livre de Poche.
Release Date: January 1st 2010 (first published June 10th 1907).
My Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆.
What do you do when you’ve got a thief that you just can’t seem to get your hands on no matter how ahead of everything you are? Absolutely nothing. While he doesn’t pray on the poor and prefers to take on the rich and powerful, he however spontaneously shares his spoils with the less fortunate that happen to be in the right place at the right moment. Created in 1905 by the French writer Maurice Leblanc, Arsène Lupin quickly gained fame among readers as the most charming fictional gentleman thief. It was only a matter of time before the greatest detective of all time found himself up against Arsène Lupin with legal implications from Sir Conan Arthur Doyle’s lawyers that forced Maurice Leblanc to change the British crime solvers name to Herlock Sholmes. But what exactly is Arsène Lupin capable of to draw this much attention?
Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Thief is the first collection of short stories featuring the master of disguise. Initially serialized in the magazine Je sais tout, these stories are now collected in volumes and presents Arsène Lupin’s adventures that often turn into elaborate capers with some recurrent characters like Lupin-expert inspector Ganimard present to highlight the rogue’s incredible skill set. With nine short stories in this first volume, including the introduction of Herlock Sholmes in the last story, this volume essentially gives readers an overall idea of some of Arsène Lupin’s greatest thefts and escapes. It also presents readers with his sense of humour and his charismatic ways that catches you off guard as you try and see ahead of what he’s planning. However, it is how you find yourself cheering for this villain’s success that remains the greatest mystery here.
Often acknowledged as a modern French Robin Hood, Arsène Lupin is a character that I did not see through from the very first moment he appears. His flamboyant personality is what strikes you first and his reputation often precedes him. With abilities that are beyond human, he achieves some of the most impossible crimes but always has a target that justifies his actions and easily makes a fool out of anyone who dares get in his way. Unfortunately, the unexpected surprise of finding out that Maurice Leblanc’s books are actually collections of short stories also confounded me momentarily and took away some of the potential awe that could’ve been generated from the character’s adventures. In fact, the length of the stories made it harder to appreciate the complexity of the character or the crime, but at least made it enjoyable to consume rapidly.
While I have always been curious about this character’s story, it is in hopes to read The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi that I have mostly wanted to visit Arsène Lupin’s first stories. Each of the stories in this volume doesn’t necessarily cover as much of his personality as you’d wish for, just like how his Robin Hood ways were a little overshadowed by the prose and mystery in itself, but they do give you a pretty good idea of who Arsène Lupin is and what to expect from him. How his reputation plays a role in his career as well as his grasp on the media’s attention to his exploits are some of the most interesting elements of his character, but a big kudos should be given to Maurice Leblanc’s writing style that is not only elegant, but also concise and exceptional in blending humour and melodrama together.
Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Thief is the first collection of short stories featuring the great famous French rogue and his dazzling ability to get away with just about anything.