Monday, October 18, 2010

The Exploits of Arsène Lupin

If you’re the sort of person who enjoys crime stories but finds it a little difficult to sympathise with the forces of law and order, then Maurice Leblanc’s stories of Arsène Lupin, gentleman burglar, may be right up your alley.

Lupin is a thief, but he also has a highly developed if somewhat eccentric sense of justice. He’s a bit like the Saint, or Raffles – he only steals from people who can afford it, and he takes a special delight in stealing from less reputable criminals, or in foiling the plans of real evil-doers.

The Exploits of Arsène Lupin collects nine Lupin stories. These include The Queen’s Necklace, very important for the light it sheds on Lupin’s early life, and Holmlock Shears Arrives Too Late, in which the French master-thief crosses swords with a certain English master-detective. The name change was apparently necessitated by legal action by Conan Doyle, although in fact it was really a tribute by one master storyteller to another.

Arsène Lupin himself is charming and well-bred, the sort of person who can burgle your house without lowering the tone of the neighbourhood. In fact it’s almost an honour to be robbed by such a discerning thief. Lupin of course is hotly pursued buy the police, with little success.

The Lupin stories enjoyed immense popularity in France and have a devoted following to this day. There have been quite a few film adaptations, including several Japanese anime versions (Lupin apparently has a strong following in Japan as well).

These are delightful crime stories, inventive and highly entertaining.

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