Wednesday, March 8, 2017

On The Lake Shore

たたどり着いたwhite mermaid
「水のない晴れた海へ」(Garnet Crow)

Towards the sunny sea with no water
Arriving there is a white mermaid
"Mizu no nai hareta umi he" (Garnet Crow)

Time for another Lupin!

Raoul d’Avenac is one night visited by a mysterious woman, Catherine, who pleads for help. Apparently, something sinister is going on in her home, and only Raoul can save her. At the same time, Raoul gets a call by brigadier Théodore Béchoux, who also wants Raoul's help with the investigation of a mysterious murder. It appears that mysterious visitor and Béchoux are both involved in the same case, so Raoul decides to help Catherine. As for why both Catherine and Béchoux want this gentleman's help: for most people is just a well-known gentleman often seen at parties. But a select few know that Raoul is in fact the private detective Jim Barnett, who in turn is actually the famous thief Arsène Lupin. Raoul/Lupin brings the woman to her home, where her sister Betrande is. The Barre-y-va mansion was given its name because it stands on a hill near the river Aurelle: the tide makes the Aurelle overflow, and the water reaches just until the hill, hence the name "the tide goes there". Here Raoul learns a great many deal: apparently an impossible murder has been committed on Catherine's brother-in-law during her absence, with Béchoux himself being a witness to how the poor man was gunned down by an invisible assailant who disappeared from the little island the two men were on. With a mysterious figure also making attempts at Catherine's life, Lupin has quite a lot to do in Maurice Leblanc's La Barre-y-va (1930).

And yes, I read the Japanese translation of the book. To be precise: the Minami Youichirou translation. As I've explained in this post, the Minami translations are aimed at children, so they are usually rewritten to be more concise, simpler in structure and easier to read. The Japanese title of this book is Lupin to Kaijin (Lupin and the Fiend), and according to what I could find, it appears that this particular translation placed more emphasis on Lupin's battle with the unknown fiend, and removed a romantic subplot surrounding Lupin.

I enjoyed Victor, de la Brigade Mondaine a lot as a novel in the famous Lupin series, as an entry that did something different. La Barre-y-va in contrast feels a lot more familiar. Lupin helping a damsel in distress, a mysterious adversary for Lupin to fight with, the legacy of Catherine and Bertrande's grandfather hidden away somewhere which needs some code cracking: none of these elements are particularly original to the series, and because of that, the whole reading experience feels like déjà vu. Even the (not really) shocking ending is very similar to a previous Lupin novel. La Barre-y-va feels stale, predictable and not original. It's one of the last Lupin novels published during Leblanc's lifetime, and while I praised Victor, de la Brigade Mondaine for still being original despite being a very late Lupin novel, La Barre-y-va is precisely the opposite.

The book starts with an interesting impossible murder situation: Catherine's brother-in-law is shot down by an unseen assailant from a pigeon house on a little island, only accessible by a little rickety bridge. Béchoux and other witnesses had the whole island in sight as Béchox made his way to the victim and searched the pigeon house and island, but he came out empty-handed. The solution to the murder however is laughable and very unlikely it wouldn't have been found out immediately. Leblanc has written much better, and more satisfying impossible situation stories than this one.

And I guess I could write a bit more about Lupin's encounters with the mysterious figure, or the final solution to all the mysteries that happened around the Barre-y-va mansion, but in the end, it all comes down to this: La Barre-y-va is not one of Leblanc's best efforts, and he has written other books that employ the same elements, but better. So why bother with this one?

I've only a handful of unread Lupin novels left, and I guess this is what usually happens when you're reading a long-running series: unless there's some chronology involved, you often read the best books first, so as times passes, you're bound to come across the less entertaining books. La Barre-y-va is definitely a good example of that. I'm not sure when I'll get to the last of the unread Lupins, but let's hope they are more fun than this one.

Original Japanese title(s): モーリス・ルブラン(原)、南洋一郎(訳) 『ルパンと怪人』

No comments :

Post a Comment