Arsene Lupin Gentleman-Thief by Maurice LeBlanc

Maurice LeBlanc
Arsene Lupin Gentleman-Thief

I love these stories! I love Lupin's gentlemanly manners, his politeness and respect for people, his sense of humour, his absolute professionalism, and that he is a stickler for details and planning. All the stories are such a fun and imaginative read and very very clever, I was heartily entertained by them all and fully intend to read more. I like the sound of the full-length stories too, so will aim to read those as well.

Arsene Lupin Gentleman-Thief by Maurice LeBlanc available on Amazon
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I love these stories! I love Lupin’s gentlemanly manners, his politeness and respect for people, his sense of humour, his absolute professionalism, and that he is a stickler for details and planning. All the stories are such a fun and imaginative read and very very clever, I was heartily entertained by them all and fully intend to read more. I like the sound of the full-length stories too, so will aim to read those as well.

I like the first story (The Arrest of Arsene Lupin), it’s clever in that the narrator is actually Lupin, although I did suspect that, as it’s such a delicious thing for an author to do. It was very enticing with the ship receiving a telegram warning the passengers that Lupin was on board but the connection being lost just as it was about to reveal the false name he was travelling under and only giving the letter R! I was a bit surprised that Lupin was arrested in this first story, as it seems to potentially end things and also doesn’t show him as outwitting the police. 

However the second story (Arsene Lupin In Prison) makes it seem like Lupin deliberately allowed himself to be arrested in order to ensure the crime in the second story could be successful! And this second story is very clever too with Lupin accessing a seemingly impregnable building and stealing the valuables stored within. Lupin has a member of his team pretend to be a famous detective, Ganimard, so that the potential victim is likely to beg this ‘detective’ to stay at the building in order to protect the valuables, and he then steals them. 

The third story (The Escape of Arsene Lupin) is very clever too with it seeming to be that Lupin actually escaped prison two months earlier and substituted another man in his place! And then the extra clever twist being that it was actually Lupin in prison and in court all along, just disguised as the substitute! I love him laughing with Ganimard, he seems genuinely to relish the tricks he undertakes, and yet he is respectful to Ganimard, as even though he has again put one over on him, he doesn’t want Ganimard’s mistake of not identifying Lupin to be known to others and him feel humiliated. 

The fourth story (The Mysterious Railway Passenger) is fun and displays Lupin’s ability to think on his feet and act swiftly in adverse conditions, whereas the other stories have displayed his abilities in detailed intricate planning long in the making. It’s also an interesting story, as we are back to Lupin being the narrator again, as in the first story. 

The fifth story (The Queen’s Necklace) is extremely interesting as it gives an insight into Lupin’s early childhood, as he cleverly stole this necklace when a child. It’s interesting too that his original name was Raoul. His mother was called Henriette, she married an artisan but the marriage caused a split with her family and she was left on her own when her husband died and she had to seek employment with a rich school friend. Lupin, as a child, was annoyed at the patronising way his mother was treated by her friend, so secretly stole the necklace of the friend without his mother’s knowledge at the age of six, and then sent money from the proceeds of the necklace to his mother anonymously in the post as she fell ill. His mother then died when he was aged 12/13. He reveals all this to his mother’s friend in later years, appearing to her under an assumed name. 

The sixth story (Sherlock Holmes Arrives Too Late) was very interesting with Sherlock Holmes turning up! They weren’t in competition with each other, as Lupin solved the riddle and stole the valuables before Holmes turned up, and Holmes then quickly solved the riddle too. It was also an interesting story as Lupin’s love interest turned up again, Nellie, which resulted in Lupin feeling ashamed of his stealing, and promising her he would return the stolen goods the following day, which he duly did, so we now know there is something/somebody that can stop/alter/influence his actions. 

The seventh story (Flashes of Sunlight) was quite gripping, and Lupin is more of a detective than a thief. He interprets the code given by the captive using flashes, which is very neatly done with the flashes giving letters from the alphabet which spell a sentence, however some words in the sentence are spelt incorrectly and the missing letters are the crucial ones that give the clue to the baddie and the code to his safe. Lupin does offer to help the baddie escape in exchange for a share of the money and jewels he has, but the baddie tries to kill Lupin so Lupin then lets him be caught by the police. The story is told from a narrator who is a friend of Lupin’s, he asks Lupin to relate a story of one of his escapades, so we have a story with an ‘I’ again but this is not Lupin. 

The eighth story (The Wedding Ring) is quite intriguing and a little confusing. Lupin appears as Horace Velmont again, as he did in Sherlock Holmes Arrives Too Late. He is summoned by a lady who is being cruelly treated by her husband, but Lupin appears to know this lady well and to have been in love with her and promised her he would always be there to help her if she needed him. She obviously cared for him too, as she had his name Horace Velmont engraved inside her ring. This lady doesn’t appear to be Nellie from the other stories, however, as this lady’s name is Yvonne. Lupin made this promise to her six years earlier, they met four times then, the final time being at her present house when she made it clear that his visits were no longer welcome, it sounds like this was before her marriage. He is neither thief or detective in this story, but a chivalrous gentleman rescuing a lady. 

The ninth story (The Red Silk Scarf) was really fun. I thought this story was another one with him being a detective, but he surprised me at the end, as he surprised Ganimard, by being a thief! Lupin is handed items that a murderer was trying to dispose of, and from these items he deducts the events of the crime in an amazingly clever way. He then gives this information to Ganimard, seemingly with no gain to himself but just in the interest of helping justice. He first lures Ganimard to a meeting in a very inventive manner by having one of his friends apparently surreptitiously drop orange peel outside houses that another friend then marks with chalk, all this is designed to raise Ganimard’s suspicion and encourage him to follow the men and be led to where Lupin is waiting, I love it! Lupin’s cleverness, and deviousness, is sublime in this story, I think it’s one of my favourites. Lupin says he is too busy to investigate the crime but urges Ganimard to do so. All Lupin’s deductions are correct, to Ganimard’s admiration but frustration, and Ganimard is praised for his cleverness when he appears to have made these deductions himself. But the jewel of the murdered girl cannot be found, Lupin seems to have guessed this would have been sewn into the red silk scarf around her neck so he holds onto the other half of the scarf, apparently also guessing that Ganimard won’t be able to convict the guilty man without the evidence of the half that Lupin has kept, thereby ensuring that Ganimard eventually has to come to him again and bring the half of the scarf he found around the girl’s neck, which Ganimard has no idea contains the jewel, and which Lupin pockets! It is so clever! Ganimard is angry and frustrated at Lupin, and Lupin does make him look like a fool to himself, but again not to anyone else. He has ensured Ganimard gained fame and praise and promotion, and he also warned Ganimard that the murderer was left-handed therefore ensuring that Ganimard was able to guess when the murderer was reaching for his gun and take avoiding action to prevent being injured or killed, but Lupin does rather rub Ganimard’s nose in his superior cleverness and humiliate him in his own eyes, though always being polite and friendly. 

Oooh, the tenth story (Edith Swan-Neck) is so clever and took me completely by surprise, I had to re-read it immediately I reached the end and had learnt that Lupin was actually Colonel Sparmiento, the owner of the tapestries, and that Lupin was actually stealing them from himself in order to get the money from the insurance company which he had previously caused to be far higher than the value of the tapestries by arranging for one of the tapestries to be ‘stolen’ and ‘recovered’ a few months earlier. He had lived for six months as the Colonel in order to make this more believable and then pretended to commit suicide after stealing a body from the morgue of an unknown person who had died in a similar way to the way he pretended to commit suicide. He then came back into the house as the butler, so he could be around Ganimard during his investigations and learn how much he guessed. It’s so clever and detailed! I like the way Lupin praises Ganimard for guessing the solution correctly even though he guessed it too late, and that one of the reasons that Ganimard guessed the solution is because he knows that Lupin would never do anything that resulted in someone’s death, so it shows again what a good-hearted man Lupin is. I do love these stories! We also learn that Lupin’s foster-mother is called Victoire, as she pretended to be the Colonel’s cook, as well as a lady called Sonia Kritchnoff, a Russian actress, who pretended to be Lupin’s wife and who does love Lupin. 

The eleventh story (On the Top of the Tower) is interesting. Lupin is going by the name of Prince Serge Renine, and acts as a detective rather than a thief. He appears to be enamoured of Hortense Daniel and steps in to ensure her step-uncle returns her fortune to her thus saving her from following her original plan to escape her step-uncle by running away with a man she doesn’t love. Lupin does this by discovering the step-uncle had murdered his first wife and her supposed lover 20 years ago and left their bodies at the top of a tower, these bodies could only be viewed from the roof of a ruined house and from one certain place on this room with a telescope. It seems a huge coincidence that Lupin just discovered this fact, and exactly 20 years to the day that the crime was committed, and that this so well benefitted Hortense, and benefitted Lupin too as it gained him Hortense’s gratitude. Did he somehow know about all this beforehand? He is also extremely determined, and quite bullish, to win Hortense’s affections. As a reward for his efforts on her part, he asks that she be his companion for seven more adventures which will end on 5th December as the clock strikes 8pm, and he tells her she can then decide how to show her gratitude to him. He describes himself as ‘a lover of adventures’. 

The twelfth story (Therese and Germaine) is another where Lupin is Renine and is acting as a detective rather than a thief. He is with Hortense and overhears a conversation between a brother and sister planning with a third person to murder his or her husband or wife by pushing them off a cliff on a walk with the couple. Lupin is not sure of the gender of the victim or the third person, but is determined to try and intervene to prevent this murder. However a man is then discovered murdered in a locked beach hut and it is a puzzle how he died, but Lupin deduces that his wife was the one being plotted to be the victim and that she discovers this plot so had stabbed her husband in anger and self-defence, the husband feels sorry for his part in planning to murder her so doesn’t say he has been stabbed but goes quickly to the shed to die alone in order to protect his wife and children. Lupin also tackles the brother and sister accomplices, seeing them as the more guilty ones for talking the husband into considering murdering his wife. Again, Lupin almost seems to have insider knowledge of the events, guessing immediately what has happened. He also completely sympathises with the guilty wife and is determined to protect her. 

The final story (At The Sign of The Mercury) is another Renine and Hortense one where Lupin is again a detective rather than a thief. It begins very enticingly with Lupin telling Hortense that he has located the bracelet she lost many years ago, she knew not how or when she lost this and had set him the task to find it because she thought it was impossible for him to succeed with this. He now tells her that in order to claim the bracelet she needs to make a whiplash out of rushes, then buy a jet necklace and cut it short so it consists of 75 beads, wear a blue woollen gown and a red toque and a feather boa, go into a particular church at 4pm exactly and give the necklace to an old woman kneeling saying prayers who will count the beads and hand the necklace back to Hortense and take her to a particular house which she is to enter and say to the man inside that she has come to fetch her bracelet. It all sounds beautifully mysterious! It all happens as Hortense is told, and it turns out the man’s wife was a previous maid of Hortense’s who stole the bracelet believing it would bring luck, the man and wife firmly believe it has brought them luck and refuse to part with it at any price. Lupin tries to discover where the bracelet is located by things the man lets slip, having previously searched the place and not found it but having found a confession the man had written of his guilty action and what Hortense was wearing on the day of the theft, therefore leading Lupin to make Hortense unknowingly replicate this outfit in order to hopefully break the man. Lupin successfully guesses the location of the bracelet and takes it without the man and wife knowing, so they continue to believe the luck is with them. It is then 5th December and Hortense seems more and more intimidated as 8pm approaches with Lupin waiting for his reward, she is daunted by his power to control her and doubts she could ever escape him but has also enjoyed the excitement of the adventures with him and his devotion to her and the good deeds he has done for others. The clock strikes 8pm and she recognises it as the clock from the ruined house where he first suggested their deal and which he has now brought there for this moment. She decides she doesn’t want to resist and wants to take ‘the adventure of love, the most delightful, the most bewildering, the most adorable of all adventures’ and kisses him. I’m not sure if it’s romantic at the end or if Lupin is being a bit too domineering, although I guess at this time men were domineering and women submissive and swept off their feet. 

I really enjoyed these stories. I like that each story follows on from the one before, usually I’m not a big fan of short stories because they are a story on their own and you can dip into any one as there is no link between them, but these are linked. I’m intrigued that the stories switch between Lupin being the narrator and someone else being the narrator, so switching between ‘I’ and ‘he’, it’s unusual to switch between the two styles like this, I guess the ‘I’ stories give us an insight into his thinking, although in the ‘he’ ones he does explain things fully so we do still get to see his thinking although this is after the event. There are such a range of stories too, taking in both Lupin’s childhood and his loves, and stories where he is the thief and stories where he is the detective. I love how much we learn about Lupin from these stories, he is mostly confident, sometimes almost to the point of sneakiness and arrogance, though he just stops short of being arrogant by always being such a polite and considerate gentleman, but he also appears vulnerable at times too. Throughout though, he seems to be having fun and enjoying his life to the full. He still remains slightly elusive to the reader, though, and his character is not fully revealed. I like him more than Sherlock, I think, who he is similar in cleverness to but Sherlock’s arrogance and superciliousness and keenness to show off, puts me off him slightly, though I am full of admiration for Sherlock and like his stories. I’m intrigued that we never get to know any of Lupin’s gang, he obviously has a large number of colleagues that he uses but they are never part of the story, the occasional narrator(s) who tell Lupin’s story and urge him to share his exploits aren’t introduced, I presume they aren’t his colleagues though but are just friends, as otherwise they’d already know the details of his exploits.

Arsene Lupin Gentleman-Thief by Maurice LeBlanc available on Amazon
 Kindle  Hardback
 Paperback  Audiobook

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