Thursday, July 10, 2014
Arsene Lupin, Gentleman Thief by Maurice Leblanc
What is it about mysteries that makes them such perfect summertime reading? I was looking for a fun, quick read for the holiday weekend, and I put Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Thief into my carryon bag. I could not have chosen a better book -- short stories are perfect vacation reads, especially when traveling (since one is so often interrupted by those pesky airport and in-flight announcements); also, this book had the added advantage of being on the TBR shelf and a book translated from French, so I can use it for the Paris in July event.
So. Arsene Lupin is a dashing, debonair gentleman thief -- he steals from the rich (but doesn't give to the poor); first published in 1907, he's a bit like the French version of Sherlock Holmes -- but if Sherlock were the criminal mastermind, instead of the detective.
Arsene Lupin himself is a mix of James Bond, Robin Hood, and Hercule Poirot. He's suave and sophisticated, the ladies all swoon over him, and he's so brilliant that he always outsmarts the police, especially his nemesis, the detective Ganimard.
This edition includes thirteen short stories, all of which were delightful, if not always strictly believable. Lupin is a brilliant master of disguise, despite the fact that his photograph is published in newspapers, he's able to fool even the police; he always manages to escape the worst situations; and he's so brilliant he can steal the unstealable, and break into any building, no matter how impenetrable and well-guarded. He can also solve the crimes of other perpetrators. In short, he's rather over the top, but the stories are light-hearted and full of witty banter, so it's hard to take them too seriously and judge them too harshly. They're a really fun alternative to Sherlock Holmes, plus they're French, so what is not to like?