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Arse’ne Lupin VS. Sherlock Holmes: The Hollow Needle
by Maurice Leblanc Adapted by Jean-Marc and Randy Lofficier

Category: Fiction / Mystery
0 pages; ISBN: 0-9740711-9-6

Rating: 10/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Kevin Tipple


In this first volume of a planned three-volume set, the reader is introduced to Arse’ne Lupin, the Gentleman Burglar of France. Maurice Leblanc made the fictional character famous in a series of short stories and novels just after the turn of the century approximately 100 years ago. Arse’ne Lupin, in a sense, was France’s answer to the exploits of the legendary Sherlock Holmes. Various meetings between the men on opposite sides make up the two short stories and the novel The Hollow Needle” found in this book.

“The Hollow Needle” opens with Raymonde de Saint-Ve’ran being awoken by sounds of intruders below her room in the country castle. She discovers they are being robbed and with the Count unconscious, takes matters into her own capable hands. As the last person flees away from her home, she manages to shoot and wound him at long range. The intruder goes down, and then begins to crawl away as she goes downstairs to begin the pursuit. Once outside she quickly goes to the point where she last saw him and discovers that he has vanished. A search of the grounds and surrounding farmland is commenced by the servants with no success and by dawn the gendarmes are called in.

An investigation is launched by the local magistrate and numerous clues are discovered. Also found is a note threatening the young woman’s life if she has managed to fatally wound the boss. The media, in the form of two young reporters, is allowed total and complete access to the case and every detail discovered. It quickly becomes apparent that one of the reporters isn’t a reporter after all. Instead, he is a young high school student who is using the situation as a learning experience. Isidore Beautrelet is his name and he quickly puts together several of the clues leading the investigation towards Lupin and his gang. What follows is a cat and mouse game as Isidore, with Sherlock not available due to being kidnapped, leads the investigation on behalf of the authorities in a pursuit of Lupin. Lupin, master of disguises and plans, constantly eludes the authorities and Isidore while a fascinated nation watches and reads all about it in the papers.

Also present in this first volume is the short story “Sherlock Holmes Arrives Too Late.” Originally written in 1906, it features the first clash between Sherlock and Lupin. The book is concluded with a short story entitled “Escape Not The Thunderbolt” which is an original story penned by Jean-marc and Randy Lofficier for this volume. In it, by following the writing style of Maurice Leblanc, they bring several story threads from “The Hollow Needle” together to provide a conclusion to the rather open ended read.

Unlike many mystery novels today, this novel does not feature gratuitous and graphic descriptive violence. While there are violent moments, they are limited and are used to move the story forward on a new track. Instead, what drives the novel forward is the mental process where deduction and reasoning are used to solve an ever-changing puzzle thanks to the constant efforts of Lupin. His answer is not to kill the pursuers and others that are witnesses. Instead, his answer is to publicly celebrate the chase, his ability to elude, and his ability to plant new false clues for Isidore and the authorities to chase. In this case, all trails eventually lead to the revelation of “The Hollow Needle” and its legendary secret involving the Kings of France.

While Sherlock Holmes rarely makes an appearance in the novel, the novel and accompanying short stories provide a highly entertaining read. The book as a whole combines a strong mystery, a villain that is so dastardly he becomes likeable, and protagonist in Isidore worthy of Sherlock. In the end, Beautrelet proves that two can play at this game and win.

Book Facts:

Arse’ne Lupin VS. Sherlock Holmes: The Hollow Needle
By Maurice Leblanc
Adapted by Jean-Marc and Randy Lofficier
Black Coat Press
ISBN # 0-9740711-9-6
Large Trade Paperback
$20.95 US

Kevin Tipple © 2004



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