Friday, 15 September 2000

Leslie Charteris: Thieves' Picnic (1937)

Alternative Title: The Saint Bids Diamonds
Edition: Hodder & Stoughton, 1951
Review number: 620

One of the least satisfying of the full length Saint novels (at least from this period), Thieves' Picnic is set in the exotic (in the pre-package thirties) Canary Islands. Simon Templar is there to investigate a gang which specialises in jewel thefts, who need to find a replacement for the man who recuts diamonds for them so that they can be resold. One of the first things that Simon does when he arrives is to break up a fight, intervening on the side of this man (a coincidence which is rather more sloppily plotted than is usual for Charteris).

Most of the novel is spent with Simon Templar, Hoppy Uniatz, the diamond cutter, his beautiful daughter (of course he has a beautiful daughter), and the various mutually double crossing members of the diamond smuggling gang chasing each other round and round Gran Canaria. This is only saved from being tedious padding - fatal in a thriller - by the ingenious ways that Simon Templar comes up with to explain his actions to make himself seem to be on all sides at once. These explanations are by far the best feature of the novel.

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