‘Lupin’: The books behind Netflix’s hit TV show

Eva Waite-Taylor
·5-min read
<p>Thankfully for voracious readers, Maurice Leblanc’s character has partaken in plenty of escapades</p> (iStock/The Independent)

Thankfully for voracious readers, Maurice Leblanc’s character has partaken in plenty of escapades

(iStock/The Independent)

Having spent much of the past year at home, chances are you’re starting to feel like you’ve completed Netflix. First came Love is Blind and Tiger King, and then The Queen’s Gambit and Bridgerton in the final months of 2020.

The latter is Shondaland’s steamy adaptation of Julia Quinn’s Regency romance novels that we’ve all been obsessed with. We’re waiting with bated breath for more sightings of the Duke of Hasting, and to find out what’s in store for the family.

But, while both The Queen’s Gambit and Bridgerton smashed records at the end of the year, with more than 60 million streams each in their first 28 days on Netflix, there’s now a new French series, Lupin, to get excited about.

For the uninitiated, it is loosely based on a series of books about a gentleman thief named Arsène Lupin, who first appeared in print in 1905, by author Maurice Leblanc

The Netflix series used the adventures of the French larcenist to inspire the capers of Assane Diop, played by Omar Sy.

Assane’s father, Babakar, is framed for the theft of a diamond necklace by his employer and tragically dies in his prison cell, leaving behind his son, an orphan. 25 years later, Assane is prepared to seek revenge after living his formative years believing that his father was a thief.

Described as a hybrid of Sherlock, Luther and Ocean’s Eleven, Netflix is projecting that the series will surpass the viewing figures of Bridgerton and The Queen’s Gambit, reaching 70 million households in its first 28 days of release. And, owing to its success, Netflix has now confirmed a second series will arrive later this year.

Leblanc’s book series consists of 17 novels and 39 novellas, all written in the first half of the 20th century. So whether you’ve binged the whole first season and can’t wait for the second, or you’re a complete newcomer to the adventures of Lupin, there’s never been a better time to read the books that have inspired the hit TV series.

Here we round-up the first six Lupin books, which should hopefully keep you busy until a fresh batch of episodes drops.

You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

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‘Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Burglar’ by Maurice Leblanc, published by Wildside Press

The first collection of eight short stories by Leblanc, initially published in French magazine Je sais tout in 1905, was the French author’s response to the popularity of Sherlock Holmes.

A copy of Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Burglar featured prominently in the Netflix series, as the book that Babkar Diop gifts to his son, Assane, before being framed for the stealing of the Queen’s necklace from the Pellegrini. ‘The Queen’s Necklace’ is in fact a short story in this collection.

The anthology follows the adventures of Arsène Lupin, who is, in addition to being the best thief in the world, as witty and sly as you’d expect a Gallic aristocrat to be. Throughout these stories, we see Lupin rob from within a prison, leaving its walls with ease, and stealing diamonds from the rich. It’s a page-turner that, much like the TV series, will leave you wanting more.

Buy now £14.99, Waterstones

‘Arsène Lupin versus Herlock Sholmes’ by Maurice Leblanc, published by Wildside Press

A spoof of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series, this is a fine example of a Victorian mystery novel. Full of humour and conundrums, its gripping plot keeps readers hooked. While the battle between Lupin and Sholmes (a name changed following a clash with Doyle) was written more than a century ago, it still has a modern appeal.

Buy now £8.99, Waterstones

‘The Hollow Needle: Further Adventures of Arsene Lupin’ by Maurice Leblanc, published by Bogo Press

A loud noise awakens the inhabitants of a country manor house to find that the estate’s secretary has been murdered. The first detective to arrive is young man named Isidore Beautrelet. The Hollow Needle follows the Beautrelet’s efforts as he picks up the trail of Arsène Lupin. It’s another entertaining read from Leblanc.

Buy now £6.99, Waterstones

‘813’ by Maurice Leblanc, published by White Press

One of the most famous stories in the series, 813 follows Lupin after he is accused of murder. Insisting on heading the police search for the real murderer, the mystery involves him finding a package of letters once written by Bismarck; locating a clock which has 813 written on it; and causing a reigning emperor to make several incognito journeys. Full of twists and turns, murders and suicides, 813 has lots of misdirection that will keep you thoroughly entertained.

Buy now £14.99, Amazon

‘The Crystal Stopper’ by Maurice Leblanc, published by CreateSpace

Having grown accustomed to our anti-hero having the upper hand over his adversaries, here we see Lupin under pressure. The thief may have finally met his match in deputy Daubrecq, a cunning detective. With everything against him, Lupin is the underdog and mere moments away from a fall from grace, until the final denouement which, of course, changes everything.

Buy now £3.78, Amazon

‘Confessions of Arsène Lupin’ by Maurice Leblanc, published by White Press

In this collection of nine short stories, Leblanc showcases all the facet’s of Lupin’s personality – from his most confident to at his most blundering. Each novella is as fast-paced and amusing as the last, telling tales of the “world’s premier thief" and his outrageous exploits, from stealing to solving mysteries.

Buy now £11.99, Amazon

Loved Bridgerton? Read our round-up of the historical romance novels that inspired the hit drama