RogerBW's Blog

Knight Templar, Leslie Charteris 13 May 2022

1930 thriller. The Saint and Roger Conway work again to prevent Rayt Marius from plunging Europe into (highly profitable for him) war. Vt The Avenging Saint.

This book was written ab initio as a novel, and manages to stick to one major plot: Marius is going to kidnap the American steel magnate's daughter (and get her forcibly married off), thus provoking her fiancé (similarly a figure of high finance) into doing something stupid. (It's all a bit vaguely defined.) In the opening scenes, Templar rescues her from kidnapping attempt number one, but once he's learned a bit more about the plot she agrees to go back in as bait.

There's less of the small detail that I rather enjoyed in The Last Hero, and more philosophising: who is the Saint, why does he do this stuff, and how does it affect the people round him? There's some consideration of whether he, or indeed Roger, will take up with the Girl, though it's all a bit hinted-at; Pat Holm does get mentioned in passing. In between there's plenty of derring-do, with desperate struggles against superior forces, even if the Saint is so keen to beat Marius to death personally that several times he fails to shoot him when he has a perfectly good opportunity. (As a great man will say in 1966, when you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk.)

This is still the prototypical Saint, the man of action much more than the detective – and a significant late plot strand anchors the book in its time, with a message that needs to be sent with desperate urgency, but just a few fragile ways of doing it. No cars to hand, the one phone line downed, nobody answering the railway telegraph in the middle of the night… Meanwhile, Roger Conway has effectively been demoted from useful sidekick to the Guy Who Doesn't Get It, who thus provides an excuse for the Saint to explain things to the reader, but it's a bit of a let-down for those of us who've seen him in action before.

Good writing with some very neat touches of phrasing, blood and thunder, and while it's hard to take some of it very seriously it's still great fun.

(I do have to nitpick the cover of what I think may be the 1989 reprint, though. Not only does the Girl never end up dangling from the aëroplane [sic], it clearly shows a high-wing monoplane, something like a Piper Cub, not the Tiger Moth explicitly named and described in the narrative. But looking through the various covers this has had over the years I haven't found even one with a biplane, and one shows a helicopter, so perhaps I should be grateful.)

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Previous in series: The Last Hero | Series: The Saint

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