Book Review: The Extrordinary Adventures of Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Burglar

The Extrordinary Adventures of Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Burglar cover

I hope that everyone is doing well, and had a relaxing weekend, no matter how it was spent.

While things have become a bit tight over here, to be able to cover too many new works, as I have placed a few preorders and got some new software last month, but I can still find some interesting titles, so I do need to worry about this place dying out, though there are things that could greatly help me in the long run.

Over the weekend, I looked through Project Gutenberg's catalog, and decided to read a work that I had completely forgotten about.

Today, I will be reviewing that title, which is called The Extrordinary Adventures of Arsene Lupin, Gentleman Burglar by Maurice Leblanc.

An elusive thief, named Arsène Lupin, is making headlines in the world by continually pulling off seemingly impossible and heists, and detectives and law enforcement officials are determined to capture him.

Unfortunately for them, nobody has ever seen the real face of the thief, and he intends to keep it that way while he continues to run from the law.

As many of you guys know, I have a huge interest in detective, mystery, and crime fiction, and thanks to Detective Conan, I have heard of more criminals and detectives than I have actually tried reading, and I decided to check out a work that did not necessarily fit into the detective fiction genre.

After reading this, I am quite impressed with what I have read, much more so than the last book that I reviewed.

From the moment that I opened up this book and started reading, I did not want to put this book down for any reason.

While The Innocence of Brown was not utterly bad to the point where I wish it did not exist, as was the case for the Yu Yu Hakusho movie, it failed to keep me engaged enough to actually feel like reading the whole book in one sitting, though I let it pass because the stories themselves kept me entertained.

Here, however, even though this was yet another anthology, comprised of nine stories, I actually did feel so drawn into the stories that I wanted to read each and every one of them in one sitting.

If I had to say why, it is because each story did not feel like it was the end of a book, whereas the stories in The Innocence of Father Brown all felt like the end of a book and made to easy to pick or put down whenever.

I might not be all to always be able to sit down a read a book without interruptions, but this is the kind of experience is what I had hoped for when I decided to check out Father Brown, because it leaves the best impression on a reader, as opposed to a work that can be read sporadically, and because Maurice Leblanc was able to write these stories so well, I feel like giving him some major applause.

After all, if I was not given incentive to read the work all the way through, I do not think that Arsène Lupin would be as big of name in the world of fiction as Sherlock, and there would probably not be a series called Lupin III and phantom thieves would have probably not have had a big presence in Japanese entertainment.

Then again, there are things in our world that are famous or considered great, when there is nothing that can show me that they are indeed great.

I also liked how I got the air of mystery in quite a few of the stories presented in this book.

Now, Leblanc's stories featuring Arsène Lupin are not technically mystery stories, so I do not expect it to fulfill everything that I expect a Sherlock Holmes story, Agatha Christie book, or Detective Conan case to deliver, hence another reason why detective, mystery, and crime fiction should not all be cobbled together like they are, but, according to Gosho Aoyama's Mystery Library, found in Detective Conan Volume 4, which recommends this book in particular, Lupin is so good at the art of disguise that nobody can recognize him, thus making his identity as much of a mystery of Kaito Kuroba and, from time to time, Vermouth are in Detective Conan, because Lupin can disguise his voice, mannerisms, and handwriting, thereby making him a chameleon in society.

Because of this assessment from Gosho Aoyama, I expect to be continually questioning who is Lupin and how he would be able to secure each of his targets, even in situations in which he should not possibly be able to do it, at least in real life, since law enforcement officials tend to be portrayed as incompetent in both detective and crime fiction, and Maurice Leblanc really pulled it off, as I was just as interested in the stories featured here as I am in the KID cases that show up in Detective Conan.

The best of this can be found in the first story featured in this book, which is called The Arrest of Arsène Lupin.

In that story, I had absolutely no idea who Lupin was, as he had not been introduced in any manner other than by name and reputation, and so much happened without any explanation that I wanted to be involved in the case right then and there, and even felt a bit surprised at who ended up being Lupin.

Nice job, Maurice. It is no wonder that Lupin is as well-known worldwide as Sherlock, and he deserves the spotlight that he gets, unlike Father Brown, and this makes me want to read more stories featuring Lupin, just like how almost every novel and anthology featuring Sherlock and written by Arthur Conan Doyle made me want to read more of Sherlock's stuff.

In fact, this kind of makes me wish that Japan would make a movie in which Jimmy Kudo would face off against Lupin, much like he faced off against Jack the Ripper in The Phantom of Baker Street, because it does not seem like it would be as disappointing as Lupin III vs. Detective Conan: The Special.

Unfortunately, Japan seems to care more about putting out more flicks featuring Lupin III, whom I consider a disgrace to the Lupin in this book, than actually doing a Detective Conan movie that does not revolve around a bomb plot these days, so I guess I will have to wait until Japan decides to stop focusing so much on explosives.

Still, that does not mean that Maurice Leblanc does not deserve credit for delivering something that I did not expect from anthology of stories that are not considered mysteries, and I will give him a ton of applause for being able to deliver in this department.

The thing that I liked about this book the most though was that many of the crimes perpetrated by Lupin were told in a way that made me want to root for the guy, or even laugh about how utterly stupid his victims were.

While fans of detective and mystery fiction do not want things explained outright or culprits to be obvious, unless proving the only suspect's guilt is the point of the case, crime fiction, particularly works in which the person being followed is a criminal, need to reveal exactly what the criminal does and any possible countermeasures because that is how the criminal going to shine, aside from getting away with their exploits, and Maurice Leblanc seems to have known how important this was, though, much like how Arthur Conan Doyle was not the first person to write a detective fiction novel, Maurice was not the pioneer of crime fiction, or even master thieves, since there are a few writers that predate Leblanc listed on Project Gutenberg's Crime Fiction Bookshelf, along with Ernest William Hornung, who created master thief A.J. Raffles, so Maurice had a few works to look back on for references.

If Maurice would not have been able to do that, I doubt that Arsène Lupin would have surpassed A.J. Raffles, who, like the face behind Jack the Ripper, has drowned in the sea of time, as I have never heard of Raffles prior to the listing on Project Gutenberg, even though Raffles was the most well-known character, second only to Sherlock, when he first appeared, and I would not have not pleased, as Maurice Leblanc would have delivered what was expected of a work of crime fiction.

However, because Maurice Leblanc was able to pull this off, it makes this one of the best crime fiction works out, and is one that I am proud that Gosho Aoyama recommended to his own fans to read.

Hopefully, things are not so disappointing if and when I try out the other stories featuring Lupin, because it is much worse to be disappointed in a future work than the initial work, as the author originally led people to believe they were good, or that they have not improved.

Then again, Maurice Leblanc probably had some terrible works, just like Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie did, so my expectations are not too high for any of the Lupin stories.

Outside of those things, I cannot think of anything else that I particularly liked, aside from something that all anthology should try to do.

Because I was given incentive to read the book all the way through, even though there were nine different stories, there was an air of mystery in a few the stories, and delivered what is expected of a crime fiction anthology, this was one of the best books I have this year.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed the book, there are some issues.

However, aside from things that are minor to talk about, I can gladly say, for the first time in a while, that nothing really bothered me too much.

As result, I will have to say that there is nothing worth mentioning.

Considering that there was quite a bit to like about this book, especially because Arsène Lupin does seem to get the recognition that he deserves, this was definitely worth reading.

I recommend this to fans of crime fiction and mystery, as well as fans of Detective Conan and Magic Kaito, because they will be able to enjoy this the most, and the similarities between KID and Lupin was what originally made me interested reading his stories.

As for everyone, this might be worth trying, as it does give a good introduction to the crime fiction genre.

If you liked this review and would like to see more, please consider supporting me on Patreon or buying the reviewed title from Amazon, so that I can find more worthwhile reads, and do whatever it is you do when you find something that impresses you.

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Copyright © 2015 Bryce Campbell. All Rights Reserved.