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"What a pity I am not an honest man!"—Arsène Lupin

  • Arsène Lupin is a charismatic, suave Gentleman Thief always ready with a gambit and a smile. A brilliant Master of Disguise who performs daring heists while first sending his calling card to alert his marks of his coming, Lupin sometimes relies on his reputation to get his marks to simply surrender their loot. Lupin repeatedly pulls off gambits once a story, always playing the police, his marks and even worse villains than he to secure victory. In some cases, Lupin cases classic misdirection, even escaping from jail in disguise just because he'd promised to escape beforehand, resulting in the police believing he did so and testifying that he could not be Lupin in court. With a brilliant mind, unmatched flourishes of style and even a deep love for those closest to him, Lupin set the stage for many gentleman thieves to follow.
  • Fu Manchu himself is the single most compelling character in the Sax Rohmer novels. Despite his villainy, Fu is charismatic, bold, educated and with a vision for the future to see his nation restored to greatness. Ruler of the Si-Fan syndicate, Fu returns time and again with brilliant schemes that are only ever matched by his enemy Sir Dennis Nayland Smith through sheer tenacity, as even Nayland Smith admits fu is his intellectual superior by far. Fu schemes to coquer the world and subvert entire nations, b ut he is not without a code of honor. At times, Fu has even arranged for the downfall of fascist and communist leaders, and will always keep his word, as well as sending Nayland Smith a gift for his enemy's wedding. A brilliant archcriminal and one of the first supervillains of literature, Fu Manchu repeatedly demonstrates his superiority, with little being able to do anything but delay him in his schemes.
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Captain Nemo, born Prince Dakkar, is revealed as the son of an Indian Raj whose family was slaughtered for his rebellion against the British. Nemo has since abandoned civilization to create his own by his brilliance and force of will, resulting in the Nautilus-an ingenious submersible that Nemo travels the world with, striking fear into the hearts of the British by destroying their ships. Nemo is polite even to his prisoners, taking everything they need from the sea and their own victims, while maintaining a air of civility and geniality, showcasing his unmistakable charisma and drive.
  • American Gods: Mr. Wednesday, in truth the god Odin, is the architect of a great deal of misfortune in the story to feed his purposes. Wednesday arranges the death of hero Shadow's wife to recruit Shadow to his purposes, later revealing that Wednesday is Shadow's father, having sired him and manipulated Shadow's life for decades so Shadow could serve his purposes. With his power waning in America next to the new Gods, Wednesday engineers a war between gods and an ongoing conflict to trick them into a huge battle so Wednesday can harvest their power for his purposes. Wednesday remains charismatic and charming, despite his vicious cunning, still caring about Shadow at the end, even as he attempts to ascend to greater heights at the cost of old gods and new alike.
  • And Then There Were None: Judge Lawrence John Wargrave, aka U. N. Owen manages to craft the ultimate Locked Room Mystery and only his desire that someone appreciate his genius allowed the mystery to be solved. Wargrave, deep down, is an admitted sadist with a bizarre sense of justice and only enacts his cruelties beyond the guilty and evil. When he realizes he is fatally ill, Wargrave has nine unrepentant criminals lured to an island with him where he begins murdering them, and avoids suspicion by luring a doctor there into helping him to fake his own death, then murdering said doctor as well. Wargrave proceeds to eliminate his other victims, pressing the final main character who had manipulated a child in her care to his death into suicide. Wargrave ends his plan by committing suicide in such a way that obscures the way he died, with only a written confession in a bottle thrown into a sea revealing the truth.
  • Asian Saga: Lord Toranaga in Shogun combines The Chessmaster and Manipulative Bastard gloriously, playing an endless game of Xanatos Speed Chess when his plans get derailed. Both Toranaga and his nemesis Ishido had sworn to their late master that they would protect his young son until he was old enough to rule, but Ishido believes Toranaga intends to supplant the boy and become Shogun himself, and he's absolutely right. Toranaga proceeds to manipulate the entirety of Japan, pulling off a set of brilliant, almost impossible gambits to provoke Ishido into war, marginalize his rivals and allow Toranaga to move against them with full support of the populace. In the end, Toranaga's brilliance ends in him completely crushing his rivals and ascending to the position of Shogun with aplomb, with narration even stating that his victory "wasn't an Act of God. It was an Act of Toranaga."
  • Best Served Cold: The assassin and Eater Shenkt is a former disciple of the monstrously evil Bayaz and dedicates his life to destroying what his mentor has built. In the guise of the Bone Thief, Shenkt rescues the crippled Monza Murcatto after Bayaz's pawn Duke Orso leaves her for death and nurses her back to heath, setting her to take revenge on Orso to serve his purposes while Shenkt allows Orso to hire him so he can play every side and clandestinely assist in keeping Monza alive. When revealing himself, Shenkt turns out to have been opposing Bayaz so subtly for so long that his nemesis is not even aware he still lives. A deadly assassin with a conscience, Shenkt also genuinely loves his wife and their children, constantly arranging the chessboard Bayaz has set up to stymie his hated foe.
  • Catch-22: Milo Minderbinder may be a mere mess officer, but he has connections all over the world and is—among other titles—mayor of an Italian city and imam of a Middle-Eastern country. Due to mastery of international import and export, including goods from Germany, and blatant pinching of various army supplies, even leaving stylish notes, he makes himself ludicrously rich, and becomes gradually even more of a capitalist wonder by turning his eye to private contracting with both the Allies and Axis. He eventually pulls off the amazing feat of bombing the regiment's own airfield for the Germans but easily avoids getting court-martialed due to his seemingly-unlimited funds. His only mistake is buying too much cotton from Egypt, but he takes care of that by convincing General Cathcart that the troops should be fine eating his excess cotton, provided they cover the cotton in chocolate sauce first.
  • The Culture: Veteuil in Surface Detail is a ruthless soldier who starts out fighting for the Pro-Hell side in War on heaven, working to sabotage the Anti-Hell side. However, Veteuil opts to sabotage the Pro-Hell side, sabotaging them and helping the novel's heroes to ensure the death of the hell side. A genius strategist, Vetueil manipulates and uses everyone over the course of the novel with none the wiser, possibly even working for the mysterious culture. In the novel's final line, Veteuil's true identity is revealed to be a repentant Elethiomel Zakalwe, the Chairmaker, who has been seeking his redemption for centuries.
  • The Day of the Jackal: The Jackal, Villain Protagonist of the novel is hired to assassinate Charles De Gaulle some way down before an OAS member in the wrong place at the wrong time blurts out his codename under Electric Torture. The Jackal infiltrates Paris and manages to stay a step ahead of the authorities the entire novel. In one instance, when seemingly cornered, the Jackal asks a series of seeming innocuous questions of the police officer, gleaning all he can from the man before realizing it is safe to eliminate him. The Jackal constantly misdirects the authorities, placing himself in the perfect position to assassinate de Gaulle and when he is finally tracked down, it is only seconds before he pulls the trigger on his target.
  • Discworld: Lord Havelock Vetinari turned Ankh-Morpork from a broken down, weak city run by a cut-throat, utterly insane monarchy into the most powerful city in the entire Disc, run by a highly efficient government that headed by himself, dominating through cultural and economic might rather than force of arms. Vetinari also happens to be a genius who is the one man who keeps the city in line, knowing without him, it would collapse into chaps, so that none may challenge or remove him. Well aware of how terible the world can be, Vetinari utilizes trickery and manipulation to better it and will happily manipulate other heroes to deal with threats to his city. While Vetinari does not believe a perfect world is even possible, he will scheme, lie, cheat and manipulate all to improve what he can, and is never not in control of events as they unfold.
  • Dragonlance: Raistlin Majere starts as a frail, sickly magician, cursed by god and mage alike. Desiring ultimate power, Raistlin goes back in time, to study under the most powerful dark wizard ever, Fistandantilus, murdering him when he tries to steal Raistlin's life force. Raisltin then proceeds to organize a war to get himself close to a gate leading to the abyss, manipulating a holy cleric named Crysania into falling in love with him to help him open it. With this achieved, Raistlin intends to lure out the supreme Dark Goddess Takhisis so he can kill her, take her place and then usurp the rest of the gods, all while abandoning Crysania to death when he needs her no longer. Raistlin manipulates countless people along his path, from the forces of darkness to the armies of light, coming within a hair of achieving his goals. The only thing that stops him is a pang of conscience when he sees his brother Caramon, instead opting to sacrifice himself to rescue Caramon and Crysania in the end. Even after his death, Raistlin occasionally resurfaces to pull off a new gambit to assist his family, being feared even by the gods themselves.
  • Dreamblood Duology: Eninket, the charming Prince of Gujareh. When Eninket was a child, he learned that his father, who was Prince at the time, and the rest of the Kingdom's elite were being controlled by the Hetawa through Dreamblood addiction. Eninket resolved that this would never happen to him and so he murdered his father and most of his siblings to become Prince himself. Eninket investigated the history of Gujaraat and learned that the Hetawa murdered the founder of Gujaraat when they couldn't control him. Eninket uses this knowledge to blackmail the Hetawa into obeying him. With the Hetawa under control, Eninket decides to become a god by consuming a massive quantity of Dreamblood, which could only be obtained by murdering tens of thousands of people. To gather the Dreamblood, Eninket corrupts an elderly Gatherer into a Reaper. Eninket then assembles a mercenary army to attack the neighboring country of Kisua, intending for his Reaper to devour both the mercenary and Kisuati armies to generate the dreamblood he needs. Afterwards, Eninket would send the Gujareen army to conquer Kisua and from there, the world. When Eninket's only surviving brother, the Gatherer Ehiru, attempts to stop him, Eninket locks Ehiru and Ehiru's apprentice Nijiri in a cell with the intent of corrupting Ehiru into a Reaper. However, Ehiru and Nijiri escape and kill Eninket. While Eninket's plans are monstrous, he is a loving father and husband who sincerely believes that all of his crimes are necessary to give the world the immortal monarch it needs to prosper. In the end, he only fails because he made the reasonable assumption that a novice Gatherer like Nijiri wouldn't be able to defeat his Reaper.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Gentleman Johnnie Marcone is constantly putting himself in a position where it's absolutely necessary for people who hate him to cooperate with him, whether because he's the lesser of several evils or simply the only option. Even before getting involved with the supernatural, Marcone brought all of Chicago's organized crime under his control. Upon getting involved in the supernatural, Marcone never fails to come out on top, repeatedly outmaneuvering and helping to defeat forces far more powerful and older than he is. Marcone even becomes the first mortal signatory to the supernatural Accords. Fully aware of his limitations as a man, Marcone is insanely prepared for supernatural threats and takes measures accordingly, frequently destroying threats that come for him. Marcone is also driven by a desire to protect innocent bystanders from harm, his iron will defined by a little girl who was once shot by a bullet intended for him. A complex, ruthless man, Marcone frequently shows why he is one of Harry Dresden's great allies and enemies often at the same time.
    • The White Court vampire Lara Raith, having been sexually enslaved by her own father, the White King, overcomes his control and cripples him into an empty shell that she uses as a puppet while she remains the true power behind the throne. Lara then proceeds to manipulate the rival families of the White Court into attacking female magic users too weak for the White Council to notice, betting on the fact that Harry Dresden will get involved and wipe out all of the challengers for leadership of the White Court. Lara is a consummate manipulator, frequently employing the aid of people who have reason to detest her and getting them to work towards her purposes. Lara is also secretly a fighter in the Oblivion War, seeking to exterminate ancient beings far too deadly to coexist with humanity. Despite freely acknowledging herself as a monster, Lara has a conscience, even if she will happily play her family, friends, allies and enemies to secure her goals and remain in power.
    • Martin, a seemingly innocuous member of the Fellowship of St. Giles, is a former spy for the Red Court in the resistance against them. Seeing all the horror and evil committed by his former masters shattered Martin's loyalty, making him a triple agent out to destroy them whatever the cost. Sabotaging a duel between Duke Paolo Ortega and Harry Dresden to keep a war between the Red Court and the White Council of Wizards ongoing, Martin later leaks information of his comrade Susan's daughter with Harry for the plans of Paolo's widow Arianna Ortega, letting her set up a sacrifice to wipe out an entire bloodline with its youngest member. Martin then manipulates a betrayal of the heroes to trick Susan into killing him, turning her into a full vampire so Harry is forced to sacrifice her, the youngest Red Court member, to exterminate the entire bloodline in order to save his daughter, dying with full satisfaction at his plans achieved.
  • The Elenium: Martel is a renegade Pandion Knight, Dragon-in-Chief to Azash, archenemy of protagonist Sparhawk, and the primary planner behind everything the villains do. Having procured the poison that Primate Annias needed to incapacitate Queen Ehlana, Martel moves about Eosia, stirring up trouble in Rendor and Lamorkand in an effort to draw the Church Knights out of Chyrellos and make it easier for Annias to gain the Archprelacy by way of intimidation. When Sparhawk and his companions foil these plans and restore Ehlana to health, Martel convinces the Rendors to invade Arcium, then attacks Chyrellos with his own private army of mercenaries. Robbed of victory by way of divine intervention when the Child-Goddess Aphrael steps in and leads King Wargun's army to Chyrellos, Martel lures Sparhawk to Zemoch, so that Azash can deal with him, and steal the Bhelliom—the entire plot of the series, from the poisoning of Ehlana onward being revealed as part of a scheme to force Sparhawk to uncover Bhelliom and then take it from him. Out for his own profit first and foremost, Martel used Annias, Zemoch Emperor Otha, and even Azash, as means to his ends, hijacking all of their plans in order gain revenge on Sparhawk and empower himself.
  • Father Brown: M. Hercule Flambeau is an archcriminal and master thief, who is well known for being a Master of Disguise. First introduced in The Blue Cross, Flambeau befuddles the police to sneak into a convention of priests, disguising himself as one to steal a holy artifact. Only stopped by the genius of Father Brown, Flambeau accepts his defeat with grace and style but returns many times to pull off new brilliant heists until he ends up becoming a brilliant detective in his own right.
  • Gentleman Bastard: Luciano Anatolius, alias the Grey King, alias Capa Raza, used Locke Lamora and the other Gentleman Bastards as disposable pawns in his campaign against Capa Barsavi and the Camorri nobility, forcing Locke to impersonate him so that he might fake his own death, and then killing off most of the team with ease. With twenty-two years to plan out his revenge on Barsavi and the nobles for the death of his family, Anatolius leaves few details unattended to, killing off Barsavi's gang bosses and inserting his own men into leadership positions, hiding his Co-Dragons among Barsavi's personal bodyguard, and hypnotizing the chief of the Secret Police into bringing his hidden Wraithstone weapons into the Duke's ball. Successful at taking over the Barsavi organization and killing off Barsavi's entire family in the process, the newly minted Capa Raza comes within a hairsbreadth of taking out the whole of the Camorri nobility, before Locke and Jean manage to halt his rampage.
  • Gormenghast: Steerpike was once a kitchen boy who rose to become of the most powerful figures in Gormenghast. Scheming to overthrow the Groan family, Steerpike sets fire to Earl Sepulchrave Groan's beloved library, resulting in the Earl's insanity and eventual suicide, setting himself up as a hero who rescued everyone else within. Steerpike burns the master of ritual, Barquentine, to death to steal his position and steadily either discredits or murders those who stand in his path while also seducing Fuchsia Groan, Sepulchrave's daughter. Steerpike then kills Sepulchrave's twin sisters by sealing them in a room and leaving them to starve, murdering the former servant Flay when he and Young Earl Titus catch Steerpike gloating to the corpses years later. Escaping into the castle, Steerpike decides to destroy everyone he can if he cannot rule the castle, being defeated only when a flood ruins his hiding place, dying with a last snarl of hatred at Titus Groan.
  • The Kindness of Devils: Lucifer himself, formerly Samael, was one of God's most powerful and brilliant children, before falling from grace as he became disillusioned with his Father's silence and resolved to give all beings the choice to define their own destinies free from the divine plan. Lucifer wins over innumerable angels not through deceit or trickery but by genuinely encouraging them to embrace their best traits and staged a successful attack on Heaven's own gates, barging into the throne room of Heaven itself and deriding his equally powerful brother, Michael, for only being able to "obey." Lucifer deliberately forfeits his battle with Michael when he realizes it's risking all creation, and forever immortalizes himself as the charismatic and steadfast Lord of Hell shortly after.
  • Kushiel's Legacy: The beautiful, deadly Melisande Shahrizai has her former lover and rival Anafiel Delaunay killed after manipulating her current lover to his demise. Obsessed with playing 'the game' of politics and attempting to seize power, Melisande allies with the barbarian Skaldi to overthrow the government of Terra D'Ange, nearly succeeding in bringing it down. Upon their defeat, Melisande later allies with the queen's great uncle and marries him, crafting a new conspiracy to eliminate Queen Ysandre and place her own child on the throne without ever drawing suspicion to herself, almost succeeding. Melisande is so excellent at staying out of trouble for her crimes that the only way the gods themselves can punish her is through her one beloved son Imriel.
  • The Malloreon: Sadi is the Chief Eunuch at Salmissra’s court, and the worst person the Prophecy ever drafts into assisting Garion and his companions. A Master Poisoner and drug kingpin who had previously played both sides of the war in The Belgariad, Sadi is recruited during The Malloreon to act as Garion’s personal option of last resort. Smuggling the group into first Cthol Murgos, and then Mallorea, Sadi adeptly navigates the halls of power in both Angarak nations, and within a few weeks of their arrival in Mal Zeth, becomes the largest crime lord in the capital, capable of summoning several hundred highwaymen when Garion decides he needs a distraction. With a case full of drugs that can warp people into doing what he wants, and the ability to poison a single person at a banquet with a thousand guests, Sadi never reforms, but makes himself absolutely indispensable in matters of intrigue, murder, and ultimately, saving the world.
  • Mistborn: The Original Trilogy:
    • The Lord Ruler is the godlike emperor of the Final Empire who rose from humble origins to become a tyrant who united the known world under his rule and reshaped it in his image. Despite centuries spent struggling with Ruin's influence on his thoughts, the Lord Ruler remained determined to ensure the survival of humanity by any means necessary and set numerous contingency plans in motion. Even following the Lord Ruler's death his hand continued to work behind the scenes and would play a key role in Ruin's final defeat, and even centuries down the line his influence on Scadrial's history can't be entirely escaped.
    • Kelsier was little more than an arrogant master thief until he and his wife were sentenced to the dreaded Pits of Hathsin by the Lord Ruler. Escaping, he proceeded to hijack the rebellion as his private army and carefully spread his reputation as a quasi-religious figure across the empire, so that when he was killed his martyrdom would trigger a mass uprising that would topple the Lord Ruler - and The Secret History describes how even death couldn't keep him down for good as he continued his scheming as a cognitive shadow. Charismatic, brilliant, and more than a little mad, the Survivor of Hathsin would topple a thousand-year empire through sheer force of will and cunning and create a reputation for himself as an iconic figure that would endure for centuries.
  • Neuropath: Neil Cassidy is a charismatic neurologist and former college roommate of protagonist Thomas Bible utterly obsessed with Thomas' old philosophy of "the Argument." To convince Thomas to adopt the Argument's principles again, Neil executes a long, complex mind game through a series of murders and manipulation while ruthlessly rooting out any loose ends. Suave and eloquent enough to make Thomas continually question his own reality, Neil reveals he made Thomas' partner in the case to have been a mole of his own making; that Thomas' own beloved son Frankie is in fact Neil's; and uses a device he uses to rewire parts of Thomas' mind to show to him in perfect detail the fundamentals of the Argument, having previously used the device to erase all forms of human emotion and weakness from his mind to perfectly devote himself to his master plan and nothing else without the hindrances of love and guilt.
  • Peril at End House: Nick Buckley may not have been the worst criminal Poirot ever faced, but she was the only one who ever manipulated him into helping her with her scheme. Faking a series of murder attempts on herself, Nick persuades Poirot to help investigate, convincing all of her friends, who had not otherwise believed her, that her life is in danger. Using this as a cover, Nick murders her cousin, knowing that Poirot will assume she was killed in mistake for Nick; she then pretends that it was she, and not her identically named cousin who was secretly engaged to the rich and recently deceased Michael Seton, setting herself up to inherit all his money. Found out because of a letter she could never know had been sent, Nick had Poirot investigating every outlandish possibility save the real one until the very end.
  • Raffles: Written as an answer to Sherlock Holmes himself by Arthur Conan Doyle's brother in law, AJ Raffles is a charming Gentleman Thief who frequently robs the wealthy members of Victorian high society, with a special emphasis on honorless 'new rich' types, one point even stealing a valuable artifact from a museum and gifting it to the Queen herself for the Diamond Jubilee. Cunning and charming, Raffles repeatedly pulls off heists while sticking to his own curious code of honor, his exploits chronicled by his loyal friend Bunny. Raffles is rarely at a loss and just as good at being a criminal as Holmes is at detective work.
  • Red Harvest: The Continental Operative arrives in 'Poisonville' and sets about to rid it of the cruel gangs who control it. A ruthless, brilliant operator, the Op extracts incriminating information of the gangs and spreads them to their enemies to play all sides against one another, even revealing one bank robbery was staged by one mob group and the police to spark a gang war and bring the corrupt police into it. Playing the gangs into whittling one another down until he's finished them all, the Op blackmails one of the town's chief members who first hired him and invited the gangs there into calling the governor to send in the national guard, declare martial law and clean up the town to give the man his town back, while removing his control of it at the same time.
  • Redwall:
    • Salamandastron: Ferahgo the Assassin, the charming, blue-eyed weasel warlord of the Corpsemakers, is one of the craftiest threats to ever attack Salamandastron. Known and feared for his disarming blue eyes and charming temperament, Ferahgo put these to good use to manipulate and slay the parents of future Badger Lords Urthwyte and Urthstripe, claiming the lands of the southwest for himself. Ferahgo attacks Salamandastron seasons later when Urthstripe rules, employing trickery and poison in his attempted assaults while remaining deftly ahead of his treacherous minions, tricking two who try and slay him while he's grievously wounded into taking out a decoy before he kills them. Unique among other Redwall villains for even having slightly more positive traits, Ferahgo genuinely loves his son Klitch and tolerates his ineffectual attempts at betrayal, and dies in a Mutual Kill with a Bloodwrath-consumed Urthstripe, fearlessly facing the badger to the end in comparison to countless other vermin who die running.
    • Marlfox: Mokkan, the last of the titular Marlfoxes standing, is the eldest and cleverest of his ruthless siblings. Masterminding their raids on Redwall abbey to steal the tapestry of Martin the Warrior, Mokkan promptly doublecrosses his siblings, stealing some of their boats and destroying the rest after sending them to fight redwall Abbey, as well as rooting out and murdering a spy his sister sends after him. Having realized that once their mother dies, infighting will begin, Mokkan intends on getting a head start in placing himself close to the throne. Mokkan arrives at Castle Marl to find his sister Lantur has murdered their mother and is crowning herself queen. Mokkan swiftly outwits and murders her, making himself king, where he even promises that he will promote any slave to his personal guard or demote a guard to a slave based solely on merit. Even among the clever Marlfoxes, Mokkan distinguishes himself as one of the cleverest villains to grace a Redwall novel.
    • Taggerung: Vallug Bowbeast and Eefera are members of the Juskarath sent with the new chieftain Gruven to hunt down the Taggerung, Tagg, after he is framed for their leader Sawney Rath's murder. Far smarter and deadlier then Gruven, the two humiliate him and abandon the rest to die so they may kill Tagg and claim the title of chief for themselves, each plotting to do away with the other when the time comes. The two proceed to hunt Tagg to Redwall abbey, blackmailing the abbey to give them the Taggerung while capturing Gruven and his team, making it appear as if the abbey is besieged by a horde while keeping minimal danger to themselves, with Vallug even mortally wounding the powerful Cregga Rose-Eyes, the badger matriarch of Redwall. Two of the most ruthless, yes effective vermin around, Eefera and Vallug demonstrate rare skill and resourcefulness for villains, putting Redwall under more threat as a duo than entire armies have achieved.
  • Robur the Conqueror: Jean Robur is a man who has conquered the skies. Showing off his perfected heavy flight craft, the Alabtross, Robur abducts several of his critics to show them the world in his aircraft and see if they will still belittle him and deny his genius. When they do, Robur arranges things to prove his genius to the world and ruin his rivals, departing into the skies, vowing to return and give humanity the secrets of flight one day.
  • Second Apocalypse: Anasurimbur Kellhus is a powerful Dunyain monk who implants himself in the holy War in opposition to the monstrous Consult. Scheming and manipulating all in his path, Kellhus engineers his own death and supposed rebirth to be seen as a great savior, eventually rising to utterly dominate the Three Seas as the powerful Aspect Emperor and prepare the world to fight the Consult. Manipulating almost everyone he meets, Kellhus heads the Great Ordeal, a grand crusade to completely break the Consult and even allies with a deadly God to destroy their conspiracy for good, vowing to conquer even damnation itself.
  • Sexton Blake (by Hal Meredeth): Blake's most memorable enemy, Zenith the Albino, is an elegant exiled nobleman who finds his thrills in danger and villainy. Creating new devices to assist his thievery, Zeno returns time and again to challenge Blake for the sheer joy of engaging his nemesis while nobody else can come close to besting him. At one point, Zenith even prints a fake declaration of war in the newspapers to massively short the stock market after causing a panic, to line his pockets. Zenith also possesses a curious code of honor, sometimes allying against brutal criminals and thugs while always keeping an incredible respect for Blake himself.
  • Six of Crows: Villain Protagonist Kaz Brekker is a gangster, conman, bank robber, blackmailer, and all around criminal prodigy who uses his extensive knowledge of Ketterdam's secrets to shame richer and more respected men and women into helping him with his schemes. Whether its bluffing gunmen into backing down with fictitious threats against their families, arranging breakouts from the two most heavily guarded prisons in Ketterdam and Fjerda respectively, or running a con on the entire government of Ketterdam that drags in King Nikolai of Ravka as coconspirator, Kaz proves to Pekka Rollins, Jan Van Eck, and all his other competitors that he is the true kingpin of Ketterdam.
  • A Study in Emerald: 'Rache' is the murderer of prince Franz Drago, a revolutionary seeking to tear down the Great Old Ones. Rache lures the prince into a trap by promising him a girl to feed upon, whereupon Drago is led to Rache's partner to be murdered. When the detective of the story tracks Rache down under the alias Sherry Varnet, Rache easily deduces his true identity and eludes capture, throwing the country into uproar while he simply hides in the rookery of St. Giles where the police don't dare tread. While ruthless, Rache is dedicated to the defeat of the Old Ones, being in actuality the detective Sherlock Holmes as an anarchist in this dark world.
  • The Tamuli: Stragen is the chief of the thieves of Emsat, a councillor of the Kingdom of Elenia, a proud patricide, and an all around bastard. During Sparhawk’s sojourn in the Tamul Empire, Stragen’s varied talents prove invaluable, as he bullies the Thousand of Styricum into aiding their cause, transforms the thieves of Daresia into an intelligence network that answers only to him, and organizes the largest mass assassination in history, killing every enemy agent across the breadth of two continents. The first to admit that he’s a very bad man, Stragen is the single most devious, and most unrepentant member of a crew of professional soldiers, political manipulators, and criminals.
  • The Thrawn Trilogy: Mitth'raw'nuruodo, known to all as simply "Thrawn," is the most brilliant mind to ever grace the Imperial ranks, a genius strategist and master manipulator. Having ascended to the position of Grand Admiral in the xenophobic empire despite his Chiss heritage, Thrawn leads the Imperial remnants following the death of Emperor Palpatine and the collapse of the Empire, embarking on a new galactic domination tour in which he is madly successful. Learning of entire races' war strategies and military tactics by studying their art, Thrawn handily dominates each and every one of his opponents, either through military prowess or his own persuasive charm, and utilizes the Ysalamir to gain the allegiance of the insane Jedi clone Joruus C'baoth. A polite, affable leader to his men—yet completely and totally willing to eliminate any who disrespect Thrawn or their positions—Thrawn is ultimately only beaten after conquering half the galaxy, solely by a completely unforeseen betrayal by his otherwise most loyal servant, and cannot help but spend his final moments remarking how "artistically" it was done.
  • Timeline-191: In this alternate history of the early twentieth century, the United States, Confederate States, and the Red Rebellion, all produce some truly admirable blackguards.
    • African-American rebel Cassius was perhaps the deadliest internal enemy the Confederate States ever faced, launching a Red Revolution under the nose of his master, Anne Colleton, and establishing the Congaree Socialist Republic throughout much of South Carolina. Opposed by enemies who considered him subhuman and incapable of strategic thinking, Cassius confounded the Confederate forces sent to subdue him, and using threats against captured white civilians, forced his enemies to negotiate with him on an equal footing. Eventually killed after the fall of his Republic, Cassius nevertheless stuck a dagger in the side of the Confederate States of America, costing them the Great War, and in the long run, helping to bring the entire white power structure of the Confederacy crashing down.
    • Luther Bliss, head of the Kentucky State Police was a bitter, misanthropic old man who used every measure he had, legal and extralegal, to keep Kentucky within the United States of America. After Kentucky was returned to the Confederacy in a plebiscite, and the Second Great War began, Bliss returned to the state as the Union's single most effective spy, stirring up trouble for the Confederates with both the Red Rebels and white opponents of the Freedom Party, sabotaging Confederate war efforts behind the lines, and eventually triggering an uprising in occupied Covington. Hating everyone equally, Bliss was able to work with any and all enemies of the Confederate government, and proved a permanent and irremovable thorn in their side for the duration of the Second Great War.
    • Clarence Potter was a Confederate intelligence officer who had a chance to stop the Red Rebellion of 1915, but was prevented from doing so by his superiors. Years later, Clarence became an inveterate adversary of the Freedom Party, only to win admittance into its government when he killed an assassin who was after Jake Featherston at the Richmond Olympics. Concealing the fact that he had originally gone to the Olympics to kill Jake himself, Clarence became Featherston's head of military intelligence, providing infiltrators and saboteurs to spearhead the invasion of the USA during the Second Great War. When the war began to go badly, Clarence flirted with launching a coup against Jake, while simultaneously pushing for the completion of the Confederate atomic bomb project, and once the bomb was completed, delivering it to Philadelphia in the back of a truck and blowing much of the de facto US capital off the map. Exonerated of involvement in Freedom Party atrocities after the war, Clarence got off scott free, and retired to write his memoirs in peace, while the rest of the Confederate leadership paid for their crimes in full.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium: The Silmarillion and The Children of Húrin bring us Glaurung, Father of Dragons, and Tolkein's most competent antagonist. Serving as Melkor's greatest field marshal, Glaurung broke the siege of Angband, and crushed the armies of Elves, Dwarves, and Men at the Fifth Battle, ushering in an era of dominance for Melkor's forces all across Middle-Earth. Chosen as the instrument of Melkor's curse against the Children of Hurin, Glaurung tricked Turin Turambar into allowing the city of Nargothrond to fall, then hypnotized Turin's sister Nienor into falling in love with Turin and becoming pregnant with his child. Slain by Turin in an ambush, Glaurung used his final breath to reveal the extent of his manipulations of Turin and Nienor both, resulting in their suicides as they contemplated the horror of what they had done. Victorious in death, Glaurung completed every part of his mission from Melkor, and brought complete ruination to the family of Hurin.
  • The Three Musketeers: Cardinal Armand Richelieu is the most powerful man in France, and the ruler behind the throne. Seeking the betterment of France as a nation under his guiding iron hand, Richelieu schemes to strengthen the monarchy and to also start a war with England to further check Spain and Austria. In order to disgrace his rival, Queen Anne, Richelieu convinces the king to throw a party and request Anne wear diamond studs he gave her as a gift, well aware Anne has given them to her lover, the Duke of Buckingham, which will discredit Anne and begin a war with England. When the Musketeers recover the diamonds in time, Richelieu accepts it with grace, later deciding to have Buckingham assassinated and presenting the wicked Milady de Winter with a letter excusing her from all acts she commits in service to France. When Milady is executed by the Musketeers, young hero D'Artagnan thinks to save himself by presenting Richelieu with the same letter, only for Richelieu to display his own power by tearing it up. Impressed by D'Artagnan, however, Richelieu accepts him as a Worthy Opponent and a boon to France, writing him an officer's commission to the Musketeers before focusing on his next schemes to ever better France as a nation.
  • Treasure Island: Long John Silver shows why he was the only man the ruthless Captain Flint ever feared. Getting himself hired by young hero Jim Hawkins, Silver converts the crew to his side and launches a mutiny, personally disposing of the only members who refused to join him. Silver proceeds to twist the events of the novel to his advantage to obtain the treasure he craves, while genuinely bonding with young Jim and becoming a mentor and father figure to the boy. When things go wrong and the crew betrays him, Silver promptly switches sides to the heroes and comes out on top, escaping their custody with a fortune to return to his wife a wealthy and free man. So charismatic and complex is Silver that even the heroes who have been under threat from him can almost hope that Silver will indeed escape justice.