Saturday, 21 July 2001
Leslie Charteris: The Saint in Europe (1954)
Review number: 881
By the mid fifties, Simon Templar is pretty firmly based in the United States. (This changes when the Saint TV series began.) This collection of seven short stories is, however, based around the idea that it is a series of adventures which take place on a lengthy holiday in France and Germany. These include the usual style of adventure - facing those who prey on the innocent, mainly - but there are also two rather unusual stories.
The first of these has dated a bit, and is basically a Saintly version of Captains Courageous; a spoilt, rich young woman is making life difficult for everyone around her, until Simon takes her in hand. By stealing her money and telling the hotel owner that she is a known confidence trickster, he forces her to join him on an idyllic trek through the Black Forest, introducing her to the joys of nature.
Far more convincingly brought off, however, is The Spanish Cow, set on the Riviera. The central character of this is a middle aged rich widow, who owns and wears a fortune in diamonds but manages to expose herself to the mockery and bullying of the other resort guests by, for example, responding to jokes about her appearance by making faces. The Saint is attracted by the diamonds, and is nice to her, only to take pity on her when he realises how lonely she is. It is a sentimental story, unusually so for Charteris, and it succeeds reasonably well in engaging the reader's sympathy.