Tuesday, 3 July 2001

Leslie Charteris: Saint Errant (1948)

Edition: Hodder & Stoughton, 1960 (Buy from Amazon)
Review number: 857

This collection of Saint stories is a repeat of the idea of She Was A Lady. There are nine stories, each with a different woman at the centre whose name is the title of their story. There are in fact more similarities than this architectural one; in each book there is one woman who appears in several stories, who is a thief who is effectively hijacked by the Saint, but in a gentler way than is often the case with his victims.

The final story, Dawn, is however completely unique in Charteris' output. Most of the Saint stories are quite prosaic, whereas in this one the main idea is supernatural. Simon is staying alone in the mountains, when a fugitive arrives at his cabin. This man tells a fantastic if rather unimaginative story about rivalry to obtain a gem carved in the semblance of a beautiful face and a girl named Dawn who is the living version of the stone. The man also explains that the whole thing is a dream, that he is in fact asleep in Glendale, California. (This is the reason for the derivative nature of the scenario and aspects of it such as the villain's distinct resemblance to the actor Sidney Greenstreet.)

This story makes the collection one of the more interesting books in the series. The other tales are competent, enjoyable and well written, but remain comfortably within the usual parameters of Charteris' writing.

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