Arsene Lupin by Maurice LeBlanc

Arsene Lupin by Maurice LeBlancArsene Lupin, Gentleman Thief (Arsène Lupin #1) by Maurice LeBlanc
Published: Project Gutenberg (1909), eBook, 279pg
Source: Public Domain
Genres: Crime, Fiction

LeBlanc’s creation, gentleman thief Arsene Lupin, is everything you would expect from a French aristocrat — witty, charming, brilliant, sly . . . and possibly the greatest thief in the world. In this classic tale, Lupin plans — and pulls off — the theft of priceless paintings for his own private collection. His brilliant effrontery in the face of the police dares them to catch him . . . with spectacular results!

I’ve been a fan of the Lupid the 3rd anime series for a while now, but never thought to check out the material that inspired it. Then I discovered that a few of the original Arsene Lupin books are available as free downloads, and I no longer had any excuse not to read them. It turned out to be a fairly typical early 1900’s crime novel, but it was charming. I especially liked finding connections between the Lupin in the book and his “great-grandson,” Lupin the 3rd.

The story starts off rather badly by describing the love interest in such revolting purple prose that I nearly gave up reading it right from the start. However, I got through that part and it never got that bad again, thankfully. The writing’s not fantastic, but it is very compelling and, I think, is very typical of that time period. The characters are rather typical as well, though Lupin is something wonderfully different.

He’s sneaky, conniving, and not afraid to insult people, and the best part is trying to figure out who he’s disguised as. The answer’s somewhat obvious, but I wasn’t entirely sure until the reveal near the end.

It certainly is a tame little novel, considering. Don’t look for a version of Ocean’s 11 or anything like that; all the crime stuff is described after the fact, and the only really exciting part is the chase scene at the end. It does, however, have some very funny sarcasm in it, and watching the detectives trying to solve Lupin’s crimes was fun.

I would say that maybe this isn’t the best book to start off the series with; it’s not bad (I ended up liking it, after all), but I’m not sure how people who aren’t already a fan of the Lupins would find it. I’m currently reading The Teeth of the Tiger and it seems like a much better choice– better writing, and a better plot. Though of course I can’t say for sure until I finish it!

Read: February 2009

What’s your favorite early 20th century crime novel?

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