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Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Thief: 07/03/16

Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Thief by John Steinbeck

Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Thief by Maurice Leblanc is a collection of short stories featuring a crafty cat burglar, confidence man, and master of disguise. For the anime geek the name Lupin probably brings to mind Lupin III, an excellent and long running anime series (well, multiple series actually) created by Monkey Punch.

Lupin III!

Now being a fan of detective and caper fiction from the close of the 19th century through the early decades of the 20th century, I felt remise for not having read anything by Maurice Leblanc. This Penguin edition repacked as an ebook served the purpose of getting acquainted with the source material for Lupin III beautifully.

I also wanted to read the source material based on its inspiration for the Sherlock, Lupin & Io series by Irene Adler and Iacapo Bruno. The sixth story, "Sherlock Holmes Arrives Too Late" has a few plot gaps in it that are conveniently filled in by the existence of the Adler series. There's a scene where Sherlock and Lupin, both in disguise, instantly recognize each other. Sherlock has been hired to prevent Lupin from robbing an estate. Despite this recognition, both stick to their assumed characters.

Sherlock ultimately lets Lupin go. Originally as written this story is to show that Lupin can outsmart anyone, even the great London consulting detective. Taken in the context of Sherlock, Lupin & Io, it's not that Lupin outsmarts Sherlock, it's that they are equals and long time friends who have grown out of touch given their career choices. Sherlock in this context knows that Lupin isn't the sort of scoundrel he normally goes after and therefore let's him.

Now back to Monkey Punch and Lupin III. There's a current Lupin series airing. It's in its second season and it's set in Italy. If you're following it, I recommend reading this first collection of stories. In it you will see Lupin on the cruise ship. You will see the arrest of Lupin. You will see Lupin fall in love (but not get married). You will see lots and lots of near misses by this Lupin's "Pops" — though he never calls him Pops in the book, he does have many other terms of endearment for him.

Basically everything I love about the fan fiction versions of Lupin, be it Lupin III or Sherlock, Lupin, & Io is there in the original. Arsène Lupin really is as charismatic, impish, clever, and masterful at his craft as he is in later versions. All that is different is his clothing and the car he drives (when he drives).

Four stars

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