813

813813 by Maurice Leblanc
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A tale of incredulity, buffoonery, naivete’, comedy, stupidity, iconoclasm, icon worship, self destruction, conceit, and staggering inefficiency, none of it intentional. What promised to be a ghastly detective story just turned out to be ghastly.

The story revolves around Arsen Lupin, a beloved French scumbag that would steal your grandmother’s purse if the thought anything was in it, and although not the type that would kill himself, always seemed to be in the middle of controversy when someone was murdered. And there were plenty of murders in this story. If cloak and dagger action if what you’re looking for, you may be amused by this book. If you’re looking for any semblance of believability, you’re likely to be quite disappointed, as I was.

Lupin, a burgler of some fame in France was engaged in his latest exploit, that was to extract some kind of information from his last victim that would lead him to a ridiculous trimuph of European proportions. But, as Lupin was about to find out, he isn’t the only low life in France. You would think he would have known that with the reputation that was bestowed upon him by Leblanc, but it would have ruined the story if he did have that clue. So the story continued.

The story starts out with an improbable series of murders at a hotel, and with the withering array of characters introduced in the first several chapters, you have no idea who or why these folks were being knocked off. Added to that, several of the characters used aliases that were used interchageably by Leblanc, so even keeping track of who was who became a challenge. Lupin himself used a few different names, along with some ludicrous disguises that characters fell for hook, line and sinker. The French people should be appalled at the suggestion of the their lummoxed brains, that couldn’t tell that Clark Kent without glasses was Superman. So it was though with their beloved Lupin, a man who could hoodwink an entire police force with a change of clothes and some glasses. How his credentials passed muster is anybody’s guess, but then this is fiction, isn’t it? Lupin apparently was able to control the press at will, with the local paper printing anything he had to say. In fact, he was able to control the police, and just about anything else he wanted as well, even having a few on his payroll. They must not do alot of policing in France, because those cops seemed to have an inordinate amount of time to do Lupin’s bidding. Of course, Lupin seemed to have an inordinate amount of cash to throw around, and if you believe Leblanc, just about everybody in France is on the take if the price is right, and Lupin seemed to always know what that price might be, no matter who they were. The dearth of case Lupin threw around must have been acquired from his prior burglaries. We never get that, but we do get that he had a network of thugs at his beck and call.

From my perspective, plenty of questions throughout. Who was this Beaupre character, and why choose him? The reasoning Leblanc presents seems rather weak, and his ultimate subservience to Lupin even weaker. Then there was Lenormand, if that is the proper spelling-yes, Lenormand, who has a brawl with a pack of thugs, and when it was all over-we have to assume it was over, he went to bed? You would think he’d be a little amped up, and even more cautious for the rest of the evening. Nope. Then there was the part where he was trapped in a secret tunnel with no way out. What was his response? You guessed it, he went to sleep. WTF? The ebook was littered with typos, so forgive me if something I say doesn’t jibe with the actual story. I got the gist of it though. Or did I?

Lupin did go to jail in this story, but since we’re apparently talking about the keystone cops here, he wasn’t there for long. But, while he was there, he devised a prison-genius communication system. Well, genius in the world of Maurice Leblanc. What the cops allowed the most wanted criminal in France was ridiculous enough, what he did in addition to those liberties was laughably goofy. Lupin was ostensibly seen as some kind of god (at least by Leblanc), but it’s like there is an agreement with all the characters that they play this game. Any real detective would steamroll these dolts, both Lupin and his adversaries.

Just a few incidents that added to the ambiance ridiculousness. At one point Lupin and some goons are headed down the road to some mysterious castle. A car drives by them and fires a couple of shots at them. Apparently, Lupin never deduced that these would be killers might show up at the very same castle they were going to! Then there was the scene where Lupin is drugged. They deduce that it was the coffee, but nobody bothers to check kitchen for any clues as to the identity of the drugger. Then there was the secret clock. I won’t give that away, but I will say that the clock would have been smashed long before Lupin & Co. arrived. Like years before. Not in this story though. Then there was the scene that pitted Lupin against seven hardcore thugs. How do you think that worked out? Seven against one, well, it’s not even fair i tell you. Then there was the unintentional comedy scene. Lupin sees a guy making eyes at the girl he wants and grabs him and tosses him out the window, smashing through tree limbs on the way down. What was the girls’s response to Lupin’s ass kicking exploits? How dare you! Well, it was quite rude of him. Lupin even crossed paths with the great English detective Holmlock Shears. Yes, decipher that anagram. But this is the great Arsene Lupin after all, a man elevated the to level of a prince (in more ways than one), by Leblanc.

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