Friday, 25 January 2002

Leslie Charteris: The Saint and the Hapsburg Necklace (1976)

Edition: Coronet, 1978 (Buy from Amazon)
Review number: 1052

The ending of the first Saint TV series, the one starring Roger Moore, and the subsequent beginning of the second, starring Ian Ogilvy, brought some more changes to the much longer running series of books. This really began when Charteris realised, with the tie-ins to the first series, that he could put his name to Saint stories written by others; this particular novel is in fact written by Christopher Short.

In a departure from the norm for the series, The Hapsburg Necklace is a return to an earlier period in the life of the hero (and so it is not, despite appearances, a tie-in with The Return of the Saint). Set in Austria after the Anschluss but before the outbreak of war, it is more or less contemporary with Prelude for War. It is a silly story, about an attempt by an Austrian aristocrat, the last of the hereditary keepers of the Hapsburg necklace (a fabulous piece from the crown jewels of the former empire) to retrieve the gems from their hiding place in the ancestral castle, now being used as the SS headquarters for Austria.

This going back into the past will inevitably (for fans of the series) lead to a comparison with the earlier work with which it is supposedly contemporary. This novel is found wanting; it reads like a minor seventies thriller set in the past - which is what it is. Even the character of Simon Templar is greatly simplified, making him much more a two dimensional action hero.

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