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Charteris, Leslie - 'The Best of the Saint: Volume One'
Paperback: 800 pages (Dec. 2008) Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks ISBN: 034096362X

This is a collection of twelve short stories/novellas about Simon Templar, the Saint, originally published in 1930, 1932, 1933, 1934 and 1939. The Saint scampers around London, working out which rich people acquired their money illegally - or, in some the later stories - immorally, separating them from their ill-gotten games and, after a tithe of 10%, donating the cash to a convenient charity. Sometimes he gets framed and has to prove himself innocent, and in virtually every story he finds it necessary to profoundly annoy Inspector Claud Eustace Teal.

The stories are competently written, with the odd purple passage or overly long explanation of why the events in the story couldn't take place but were going to anyway. The feud with Teal gets tired quite quickly, largely because Charteris spends too mch time telling us how funny Templar is being rather than showing us.

A weakness in the edition is that the publishing dates for the individual stories are only given on the copyright page. It surely it isn't beyond the power of the editor to add the original publication date after the title of a story, especially when the stories aren't all printed in the original order. It's not a big thing, but it's mildly irritating to have to look in the front of the book to find out why a gangster from New York can stay in the Saint's flat in one story, then totally fail to recognize both flat and Saint in the next story (the gangster appearing to be based on Ignatz Mouse from the Krazy Kat cartoons doesn't help much, either).

Overall, this is a decent collection with a mix of a decade's worth of Saint stories; not having read everything Charteris wrote I'll take Hodder's word for it that these are the best.

Rik Shepherd, England
May 2009

More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 31/05/2009 09:36