Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Thief by Maurice Leblanc – Book review

Yes, this was a case of TV made me do it. Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Thief by Maurice Leblanc came to my attention after watching the French series, Lupin on Netflix. It takes inspiration from these classic books (Arsène Lupin is a series) and I was intrigued, so wanted to read the base material.

Opening sentence: It was a strange ending to a voyage that had commenced in a most auspicious manner.

Always a gentleman

The ‘gentleman thief’ reference alludes to the fact that Arsène uses brains not braun to get what he wants. He is clever, witty, fearless, mysterious: his history is unknown to authorities, he seemed to have appeared from nowhere and can transform into anyone too – which is what makes him such a good thief.

However frightful the circumstances may be, a man like Arsène Lupin controls himself and commands the situation as soon as he learns what it is.

The structure of this book felt like reading a set of short stories. Each chapter had its own adventure, although there was an overarching story running through, including that of his relationship with Ganimard, the detective after him. They have an intriguing cat-and-mouse friendship ( Arsène even pretends to be him in one story):

Of course, he knew that Lupin had been arrested in America by his enemy Ganimard and was at present incarcerated in the Prison de la Santè. But he knew also that any miracle might be expected from Arsène Lupin.

There are great perspective switches that happen throughout to throw you and really adds to the enjoyment of the read.

Arsène has his own Watson, or historiographer, who records his adventures and when you combine this with the psychological cleverness behind what Arsène Lupin does, in this respect, he is a perfect match for his more-famous adversary – Sherlock Holmes…

Speaking of Sherlock

Arthur Conan Doyle first started publishing his Sherlock Holmes stories in magazines in 1887, with the first book being published in 1892. Arsène Lupin was then published in 1907 and the great man himself features…

There are direct comparisons to be made between Sherlock Holmes and Arsène Lupin but Arsène is, of course, on the other side of the coin. This makes them exciting adversaries – and it’s intersting to see Arsène use his analytical mind and work out crimes as a detective would too.

Then, for a moment, he and Arsene Lupin gazed at each other; and, if a person could have seen them at that moment, it would have been an interesting sight, and memorable as the first meeting of two remarkable men

Unlike Sherlock, there is a distinctly human side to Arsene, which I really enjoyed. He lets his feelings for a woman dictate how he works, he makes mistakes, he has a visible conscience (despite the fact he makes a living from thieving).

The archaic syntax, possibly due to the translation from French as well as the time it was written, was delightful and really helped to transport me to Arsene’s world too – highly enjoyable!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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