I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.
In The Crystal Stopper, Leblanc tried to up the suspense by knocking Lupin down a few notches and raising his opponent up a few notches. Sadly, the result did not work as well for me as The Extraordinary Adventures of Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Burglar, or even Arsene Lupin.
In most of the previous Lupin stories I've read, Lupin is better than the best, always more cunning than those around him. He usually pulls off his schemes in some clever and wildly arrogant way. In this book, the tables are turned, and Lupin can barely keep up with Daubrecq, his opponent. Every move he makes, Daubrecq is always at least a step ahead.
Because it's not Lupin's life in the balance, but rather his comrade's, I suppose the “will Lupin succeed?” feeling that Leblanc was probably trying to achieve is believable. Even so, rather than feeling more on the edge of my seat each time Daubrecq bested Lupin, I instead became more and more annoyed. I think the bit where Leblanc really lost me was when that toad of a man managed to best Lupin shortly after having been tortured. Lupin got his groove back near the end of the book, but after being knocked so flat for so long, I couldn't accept it. Leblanc's explanations for how Lupin managed it ended up coming across as flimsy authorial hand-waving to me.
Just as I was less than happy with how the love interest in Arsene Lupin was portrayed, I wasn't happy with Clarisse. She would, I'm guessing, have been at least in her forties, maybe her late thirties. She lived through the death of her husband, giving birth to two children, and lots of stress. All those things could potentially age any woman before her time, but Leblanc's descriptions of her left me with the impression that she was physically a tragically tired-looking 20-something (so that she could be beautiful enough for Lupin to fall for) who happened to have a bit of gray hair. Such a big deal was made about that gray hair that it wasn't until I did a check in the text prior to writing this post that I realized she didn't have solid gray No, she just had a bit of gray in her otherwise dark hair, but this was a Big Deal.
Clarisse's determination to save her son should have been awesome, and I suppose it was, at times. However, whenever the going got tough and Lupin's latest plan to beat Daubrecq fell through, Clarisse's first answer seemed to be to attempt suicide. I mean, what? This is a woman who was strong enough to survive so much hardship, and she attempts or threatens to kill herself before all hope is really lost? I would have thought a woman like her wouldn't have gone that far unless both her sons were already dead.
Lupin's victorious ending seemed to come out of the blue. I'm still not sure how he learned of the true location of the list (did he really realize where it was on the fly, while torturing Daubrecq? how...disappointing), and his actions to get at that list seemed to come awfully close to the torture he had, earlier in the book, decided he'd never be able to do. While I still plan on reading more Arsene Lupin books, I hope that my next one is better.
(Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)