Ever since Maurice Leblanc's story, "The Arrest of Arsène Lupin," appeared in print in 1905, readers have been enthralled with Leblanc's tales of the gentleman thief. The Netflix series Lupin provides a new riff on the dapper larcenist, using his adventures as fuel for Senegalese-French thief Assane Diop's mission to avenge his father's death. Arsène Lupin — the Lupin books' hero — is the anti-Sherlock Holmes, and readers who love the new Netflix series should look to Leblanc's original stories, as well.
The Lupin books consist of 17 novels and 39 novellas, all written in the first half of the 20th century. The final novel, The Last Love of Arsène Lupin, was published in 2012, one year after the author's granddaughter, Florence Boespflug-Leblanc, found it by chance. Leblanc also wrote several plays featuring his beloved protagonist, including Arsène Lupin and The Return of Arsène Lupin.
But who is Arsène Lupin, and what makes him the anti-Sherlock Holmes? Both men are skilled sleuths, masters of disguise, and trained in martial arts. In spite of the fact that Lupin and Holmes operate on opposite sides of the law, as a thief and a detective, both are gentleman who are never afraid to be, well, ungentlemanly. Lupin's thieving is as uncouth as he gets, and Holmes is never opposed to rudeness or trickery, so long as it gets him what he wants. Where Holmes frequently bends — or outright breaks — the law to solve his cases, Lupin often finds himself doing good works in the process of committing his crimes.
Like Holmes, who holds the Guinness World Record for "the most portrayed literary human character in film [and] TV," Lupin has been immortalized across every imaginable medium. In addition to being the subject of dozens of films and TV shows, Arsène Lupin found his way into Japanese comics and animation in two series from manga artist Monkey Punch, Lupin III and Lupin III: World's Most Wanted, which focused on the eponymous gentleman thief, the grandson of Leblanc's hero. Lupin III spawned several TV series and animated films, including 1979's The Castle of Cagliostro, which has the distinction of being legendary filmmaker and Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki's first film.
Lupin and Holmes have met before, on both page and screen. Their first rendezvous came in Leblanc's 1906 story, "Sherlock Holmes Arrives Too Late," but the English detective's name was changed to "Herlock Sholmes" after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle complained. Sholmes would go on to appear in numerous Lupin stories, but Lupin would not face off against Holmes again until 2008, when the PC game Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis pitted the two in a witty game of cat and mouse.
Whether you love mystery stories, enjoy tales of gentleman thieves, or just want more Arsène Lupin in your life, it's never a bad time to start reading the Lupin books.
Netflix's Lupin is streaming now.