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Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Thief

de Maurice Leblanc

Séries: Arsène Lupin {Maurice Leblanc} (Collection)

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2681176,481 (3.68)4
Leblanc's creation, gentleman thief Arsène Lupin, is everything you would expect from a French aristocrat - witty, charming, brilliant, sly ... and possibly the greatest thief in the world. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.… (mais)
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{Short story collection, Arsène Lupin series. Crime, golden age detective.} (2007)

An English 'best of' selection of stories taken from several anthologies about a gentleman-thief, later turned detective, translated from French. Like the Sherlock Holmes stories these were modelled on, these were short stories first printed in newspapers.

This edition is annotated with footnotes printed at the end of the book. I would recommend you read them after the episode to prevent spoilers.

i) The Arrest of Arsène Lupin (1905)

Our narrator tells of the time he was traveling by ship from France to America and trying to win the affections of Miss Nellie Underdown when a telegraph was received to the effect that Arsène Lupin was on board.

Arsène Lupin in our midst! The mysterious housebreaker whose exploits had been related in all the newspapers for months! The baffling individual with whom old Ganimard, our greatest detective, had entered upon that duel to the death of which the details were being unfolded in so picturesque a fashion! Arsène Lupin, the fastidious gentleman who confines his operations to country-houses and fashionable drawing-rooms, and who one night, after breaking in at Baron Schormann’s had gone away empty-handed, leaving his visiting-card:

ARSÈNE LUPIN
Gentleman-Burglar

with these words added in pencil:
“Will return when your things are genuine.”

3.5****

ii) Arsène Lupin In Prison (1905)

Having been arrested in the first story, Lupin carries out an audacious burglary from an impregnable chateau in the middle of the Seine while awaiting the Government of France’s pleasure under lock and key.

It was just after mid-day when Ganimard was shown into Arsène Lupin’s cell. Lupin, who was lying on his bed, raised his head, and uttered an exclamation of delight.
“Well, this is a surprise! Dear old Ganimard here!”
“Himself.”
“I have hoped for many things in this retreat of my own choosing, but for none more eagerly than the pleasure of welcoming you here.”
“You are too good.”
“Not at all, not at all. I have the liveliest feelings of esteem for you.”
“I am proud to hear it.”
“I have said so a thousand times: Ganimard is our greatest detective. He’s almost—see how frank I am—almost as good as Sherlock Holmes. But, really, I’m awfully sorry to have nothing better than this stool to offer you. And not a drink of any kind! Not so much as a glass of beer! Do forgive me: I am only passing through!”

3.25***

iii) The Escape of Arsène Lupin (1906)

Arsène Lupin has declared that he has decided that he will not be attending his trial and will escape before that. The officers of the law go to great lengths to prevent it; will he manage to outwit them?

And when, in the course of this private interrogatory, which appeared at full length in the columns of the Écho de France, the magistrate resumed his cross-examination, Lupin exclaimed, with a weary air:
“Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! What is the use of going on? All these questions have no importance whatever.”
‘How do you mean, no importance?”
“Of course not, seeing that I shall not attend my trial.”
“You will not attend? …”
“No, it’s a fixed idea of mine, an irrevocable decision. Nothing will induce me to depart from it.”
This assurance, combined with the inexplicable indiscretions committed day after day, ended by enervating and disconcerting the officers of the law.


Through the preliminary hearings we learn of how he prepared for his extraordinary life of crime.

It seems probable that the so-called Rostat, who, eight years ago, was acting as assistant to Dickson, the conjurer, was none other than Arsène Lupin. It seems probable that the Russian student who, six years ago, used to attend Dr. Altier’s laboratory at St. Louis’ Hospital, and who often astonished the master by the ingenious character of his hypotheses on bacteriology and by the boldness of his experiments in the diseases of the skin—it seems probable that he too was none other than Arsène Lupin. So was the professor of Japanese wrestling, who established himself in Paris long before jiu-jitsu had been heard of. So, we believe, was the racing cyclist who won the great prize at the Exhibition, took his ten thousand francs, and has never been seen since. So, perhaps, was the man who saved so many people from burning at the Charity Bazaar, helping them through the little dormer window … and robbing them of their belongings.”
4****

iv) The Mysterious Railway Passenger (1906)

Set in Leblanc’s native Rouen.

Our narrator takes a train for Rouen and shares a carriage with a nervous lady who has heard that Arsène Lupin is on their train.

As for myself, I opened my newspapers and read the reports of Arsène Lupin’s trial. They contained nothing that was not already known, and they interested me but slightly. Moreover, I was tired, I had had a poor night, I felt my eyelids growing heavy, and my head began to nod.
“But surely, sir, you are not going to sleep?”
The lady snatched my paper from my hands, and looked at me with indignation.
“Certainly not,” I replied. “I have no wish to.”
“It would be most imprudent,” she said.
“Most,” I repeated.
And I struggled hard, fixing my eyes on the landscape, on the clouds that streaked the sky. And soon all this became confused in space, the image of the excited lady and the drowsy man was obliterated in my mind, and I was filled with the great, deep silence of sleep.

4****

v) The Queen’s Necklace (1906)

Concerning the (second) theft of Queen Marie Antoinette’s diamond necklace. We learn a little more history.

This was really the famous necklace, the historic necklace, which Böhmer and Bassenge, the crown jewellers, had designed for the Du Barry, which the Cardinal de Rohan-Soubise believed himself to be presenting to Queen Marie-Antoinette, and which Jeanne de Valois, Comtesse de La Motte, the adventuress, took to pieces, one evening in February, 1785, with the assistance of her husband and their accomplice, Rétaux de Villette.
3.75***

vi) Sherlock Holmes Arrives too Late (1906)

Arsène Lupin meets Sherlock Holmes.

“Yes, he’s a man, and a man on whose shoulder I shall have great pleasure in laying this hand with which I now grasp yours, Monsieur Devanne. And I have an idea, mark you, that Arsène Lupin and Sherlock Holmes will meet again some day …. Yes, the world is too small for them not to meet …. And, when they do! …”
4****

vii) Flashes of Sunlight (1911)

Lupin sees a way to benefit from someone else's crime and solves a case.
4.5*****

viii) The Wedding Ring (1911)

Lupin does another good deed.
4.25*****

ix) The Red Silk Scarf (1911)

In a fit of altruism, Lupin hands Ganimard a case.
4.25****

x) Edith Swan-neck (1913)

Ganimard gets the better of Lupin.

'Edith Swan-neck' refers to Harold II of England's wife, represented on one of a set of tapestries which Lupin has declared that he will steal.
4.5*****

xi) On the Top of the Tower (1922)

Prince Serge Rénine, an alias of Lupin's, solves an old crime with the help of a new friend, Hortense Daniel, after promising her adventure.
4.5****

xii) Thérèse and Germaine (1922)

Rénine and Hortense move to prevent a murder.
4.5*****

xiii) At the Sign of Mercury (1923)

Rénine had proposed eight adventures to Hortense to enliven her boredom and for the last one, she requested that he help her find her mother's clasp, lost years ago. And if he should succeed, the reward he requests is to embark on that greatest adventure together.

3.75****

Lupin is a thief but he is not malicious and often employs his intelligence to help people (although he's not always completely altruistic and might not neglect to help himself to some ill-gotten gains along the way). Lupin is young and cheerful. He has established his success by constantly changing his appearance so that he can't be identified and by outwitting the opposition by doing what they least expect, sometimes hiding evidence in plain sight. And although he usually outwits his nemesis, detective Ganimard, the two have a grudging respect for each other, if not an actual friendship (unlike the uncomfortable alliance between Holmes and Lestrade) and they have a similar level of intelligence.

I admit that the impetus for me borrowing this book was watching the Netflix series 'Lupin' in which the protagonist, Assane Diop, admires the stories and a policeman recognises aspects of Arsène Lupin's stories in the crimes that Diop commits so we often catch glimpses of the books.

I read this quickly as my Overdrive library e-book was about to expire with at least a two week wait before I can get hold of it again, so I didn't have time to immerse myself in the atmosphere of the stories as I usually like to do; you may have noticed that my comments on the later episodes were more brief. Nevertheless, I enjoyed these stories; they are light and feel-good (once you acclimatise yourself to the 'hero' operating on the wrong side of the law) and although on occasion I had to suspend disbelief for a few moments, I didn't mind going along with it for the sake of the story.

Light and fun.

Averaging out: 4 stars ( )
  humouress | Jul 3, 2021 |
Mon ami d'enfance - The Best of Lupin
Review of the Penguin Books paperback (2007) translations selected from various French language originals (1906, 1911, 1922)

I remember first reading some of Maurice Leblanc's Lupin stories in my younger days when I literally picked up and read anything with Sherlock Holmes in the title. My first Lupins were therefore in [book:Cosmopolitan Crimes : Foreign Rivals of Sherlock Holmes|1735784] (1972). After that, it was slim pickings in the library or the bookstores in my neighbourhood. This was well before the years of inter-branch library transfers & holds or internet availability of course. I remembered Lupin regardless, primarily for the audacity and the magnitude of his heists and escapades. But also for his banter which even stretched so far as to regularly label his police nemesis Inspector Ganimard as mon ami d'enfance (friend of my youth) while Lupin again and always manages to make his escape.

So with the recent Lupin revival instigated by the new French Netflix series, I looked around for what was currently available in English translation. The anthology Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Thief was the easiest to obtain. It is incorrectly labelled in Goodreads as Arsène Lupin #1, as it is not actually a full translation of the French original #1 [book:Lupin - nouvelle édition de "Arsène Lupin, gentleman cambrioleur" à l'occasion de la série Netflix|56785398] (Gentleman Burglar) (1906/2021) (the latter is the latest 2021 French edition released as a TV-tie-in).

Gentleman Thief has 6 stories from Gentleman Burglar (1906), 4 stories from [book:The Confessions of Arsène Lupin|141193] (1911) and 3 stories from [book:The Eight Strokes of the Clock|141191]. All told, I think there are 11 original books of Lupin novels and short story collections. Hopefully if the TV-series is popular enough in English (I don't really like the dubbed version, but each to their own taste) we'll see some English reprints as well in the future.

Gentleman Thief can somewhat be read as a novel as there are continuing threads in the plotlines from story to story and the overall "best of" selection takes the character arc from his early sneak thief days to his final manifestation as a "gentleman detective" living under an assumed name.

In any case, I was happy to renew my Lupin acquaintance and hope to find more of the stories in translation.

Trivia and Link
I read Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Thief due to the recent French Netflix reboot series Lupin, dans l’ombre d’Arsène (Lupin, In the Shadow of Arsène) (2021) which features a present day protagonist who is inspired by the fictional Lupin and with some of the story lines borrowed from the Leblanc tales, primarily The Queen's Necklace which is available in both Gentleman Thief and the original Gentleman Burglar.. ( )
  alanteder | Feb 20, 2021 |
Went looking for this one after seeing the new Netflix show "Lupin" (which I highly recommend). The book wasn't quite as good - I found most of the stories a bit meh. But that just makes me look forward even more to the second series of the show! ( )
  JBD1 | Jan 22, 2021 |
So, I'd never have picked this up if it hadn't been for one little thing: Hannu Rajaniemi's Quantum Thief. I was missing a thief in my life.

Fortunately, I enjoyed the taste of this French dish and especially enjoyed the aspects of the novel that were from Lupin's pov. From a pure story view, it was all standard pulp that reflected the late victorian era ending with a mild rivalry with Mr. Sherlock Holmes, himself.

I couldn't care less that there were copyright issues. Cameos are the pinnacle of flattery, no?

Of course, that wasn't even the brightest part of the tale. The anti-hero was rather heroic and selfless, all told, but never with his own money. Don't expect a modern Robin Hood, though. He definitely fights against his noble urges, and frankly, I'm glad that he does. I want to see this man succeed. And stay away from certain women. Both would be best, I think.

Enjoyable and fast reads. I might try hunting down the rest of the long series one of these days. ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
Enormously entertaining series of short stories starring the titular gentleman-thief-turned-detective. Some of the stories are quite ingenious, and the one where Lupin unravels (almost literally) a mystery involving a murdered music-hall figure is in particular a highlight. Only the jabs at Sherlock Holmes seem to pall. Recommended. ( )
  EricCostello | Aug 3, 2019 |
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Do not combine with Arsene Lupin by Edgar Jepson which is a novelisation of a play. The Penguin Classics anthology (and others with an identical table of contents) is not a translation of the nine short stories usually gathered under the title "Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Burglar", it contains stories from several of the first books.
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Leblanc's creation, gentleman thief Arsène Lupin, is everything you would expect from a French aristocrat - witty, charming, brilliant, sly ... and possibly the greatest thief in the world. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

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