’d first heard of Lupin from the classic Japanese anime (and I do mean classic – it’s been running fifty years) – Lupin III. There, the main character, a master thief, claims he was the grandson of Arsene Lupin, whoever that was.
Then there was the very recent series on Netflix, Lupin, where a modern French thief raves about “the Lupin books”. Well, you all know how I am with literary threads like this – I gotta unravel them. So into Project Gutenberg I went, poking around. And yes, there was a Lupin, a thief very popular in French magazine novellas in the early 1900s. Written by Maurice Leblanc, they were a rival for Doyle’s popular Sherlock Holmes, where Lupin is a master thief to Holmes lawful good detective. In fact, Holmes showed up in several Lupin books (and was bested in a number of them, to Doyle’s annoyance and eventual litigation).
So this book is the opener, the stories of Lupin getting caught, doing crimes while in prison, and eventually escaping. As I read them, I could see why the books were popular – the stories really come out of left field, catching you be surprise. One of them, The Queen’s Necklace, was a perfect locked-room mystery, with various levels of storytelling taking place simultaneously. I remember finishing this one in an outdoor café we frequent and just leaning back at its conclusion, to tell my wife the entire story (yes, it was that good).
So I’m telling you this – if you find Holmes too fussy and dry, come over to the other side of the tracks. Root for the bad guys. Root for Lupin as he pulls off stunning crimes with class and style. They are delightfully clever. And you can get this one for free here:
And if you like that, Gutenberg’s got a bunch of the other ones. I’m into a new one as of this writing. And don’t tell me how it ends!