Undoubtedly, Maurice Leblanc’s most important contribution to the mystery and detective genre was his creation of the extraordinary Arsène Lupin, the quintessential criminal-detective. Leblanc’s focus on his character, who dons many disguises throughout the series and who functions as both criminal and hero, raises fundamental questions concerning truth and value, and their uncertainty in a basically unjust world. Jean-Jacques Tourteau, the author of a major critical study of Lupin, has identified the key devices that Leblanc employed in his crime fiction and that have influenced other writers in the genre: First, Leblanc conferred on his protagonist, Lupin, a histrionic character, especially in making him a “quick-change artist”; second, Lupin is a master at manipulating his victims; third, Leblanc, in like fashion, manipulates the reader; fourth, Leblanc especially uses setting to do so, choosing details that subliminally suggest psychological nuances to the reader; and fifth, Leblanc sustains suspense by delaying the progress of the narration except in cases in which immediate action is necessary.
The impact of the Lupin series is attested by the many critical studies that Leblanc’s protagonist has engendered. There are even two journals devoted to the topic: the Revue des études lupiniennes and the periodical publication of the Société des Études Lupiniennes, founded in 1965.