Assane Diop, as played by Omar Sy, in the Netflix programme, Lupin.

Omar Sy as Assane Diop in the Netflix show, Lupin. Image: Netflix.

2020 was truly the year of the TV series. With most of us stuck indoors all day, every day, turning towards the television for a bit of escapism was an obvious solution. Throughout the year, series like Tiger King, The Queen’s Gambit and Bridgerton captured our collective consciousness and sent social media into frenzied chatter. The latter two in particular smashed Netflix viewership records in quick succession, each reaching over 60m households in their first 28 days on the streaming platform.

Now, Netflix has kicked off 2021 with another record-breaking show that’s projected to reach over 70m households in its first 28 days of release. What is this smash hit, you ask? Let us introduce you to Lupin: a stylish, high-octane drama set in Paris, inspired by Maurice Leblanc’s quintessential gentleman thief, Arsène Lupin.

The original stories were written in the early 20th century but rather than directly adapting them, the series uses the books as inspiration for its protagonist, Assane Diop. Seeking revenge for the untimely death of his father, Diop turns to Leblanc’s Arsène Lupin stories as a manual for his own escapades. If you’ve already binged all five episodes and want more of the same, turn to these books next.

Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Thief by Maurice Leblanc (2007)

The source material for Lupin is the obvious place to start. Maurice Leblanc created this aristocrat by day, master thief by night in response to the huge success of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.

First appearing in a series of short stories in a popular French science magazine in 1905, Leblanc went on to write over 17 novels and 39 novellas featuring Lupin. With so much material to draw on, there could be plenty more seasons of Lupin to come – and after its breakout success, Netflix has already confirmed there will be a second series arriving later this year. While you wait for that, this collection of stories acts as a great introduction to Leblanc’s smooth criminal.

Raffles by E.W. Hornung (2015)

From one gentleman thief to another: amateur cricketer and man-about-town A.J. Raffles seems to live a carefree existence in a desirable part of London. Underneath the respectable appearance, however, he is a master criminal who spends his evenings carrying out ingenious thefts with the aid of his right-hand man, Harry “Bunny” Manders.

E.W. Hornung was actually brother-in-law to Sherlock Holmes’ creator Arthur Conan Doyle and it was in response to Holmes and Watson’s success that Raffles was created, despite Conan Doyle’s warnings on the questionable morals of making a criminal the hero of a book. First appearing in 1898, Hornung wrote many short stories and a novel featuring his all-English counterpart to Arsène Lupin and this series of full-cast radio dramatisations brings the stories to life brilliantly.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (2006)

Set in a fantasy version of Venice during the late medieval period, The Lies of Locke Lamora follows a gang of con artists who call themselves the ‘Gentleman Bastards’ and their leader, Locke Lamora.

Relying on wit and charm rather than physical prowess, Lamora and the rest of the crew enjoy stealing from the rich and revelling in the spoils but unbeknownst to them, a mysterious adversary is slowly taking over the criminal underworld and threatening their place within it. If you’re after japes featuring elaborate disguises, cunning heists and a band of gentleman thieves, this is it.

The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson (2018)

One evening in 2009, 20-year-old Edward Rist broke into the Natural History Museum at Tring and made off into the night with as much as he could grab. The museum houses some of the world’s rarest bird specimens, including many collected by Alfred Russel Wallace – a British naturalist whose work on evolution prompted Darwin to publish On the Origin of Species.

In this book, Kirk Wallace Johnson investigates a fascinating real-life heist, delving into what led a man who was otherwise known for being a gifted flautist to commit such a crime, the international operation to recover the stolen birds and what the murky and secretive world of salmon fly-tying has to do with it all.

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (1955)

A young Tom Ripley is struggling to keep his head above water in New York City. Through a succession of small-time scams, he just about manages to stay afloat until one day, everything changes. Shipping magnate Herbert Greenleaf hires Ripley to track down his irresponsible son, who has escaped to Eurpoe, and persuade him to return to the USA and take over the family business.

On arriving in Italy, however, Ripley finds himself fascinated by Dickie and his life of wealthy, careless abandon and the two develop an intense, co-dependent relationship that takes a dark turn. Set against a backdrop of glossy European locations, this nail-biter of a book certainly illuminates the downsides of stopping at nothing to get to the opulent life you've always dreamed of.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (2015)

In Ketterdam, a city known for being an international trade hub, one can get hold of anything as long as they’re willing to pay the price. No one knows this better than young criminal mastermind Kaz “Dirtyhands” Brekker, and he’s just been given the opportunity to become richer than he could ever have imagined. The only catch: he’s going to have to pull off an impossible heist first.

Knowing he can’t do it alone, Kez gathers a motley crew of talented outcasts in the hope they’ll be able to do it together. Set in a world that’s loosely inspired by 19th century Europe,  Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows, offers a fantastical twist on the classic heist story.

Tricks of the Mind by Derren Brown (2006)

If, after watching Lupin, your brain is working overtime trying to plan your own perfect heist, perhaps Derren Brown’s Tricks of the Mind will help?

Known for creating baffling illusions and confounding millions with his performances, Brown has channeled all his intel on the psychology of magic, how to read body language to your advantage, the power of suggestion and hypnosis into this book. 

One last thing though: if you are using this as a manual for your own nefarious activities, leave our name out of it, yeah?

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