Edition: Coronet, 1978
Review number: 1517
Another late Saint novel, written by Donne Avenell and Graham Weaver in the days when Leslie Charteris was editing new entries in the series rather than writing them himself.
It feels like a somewhat trite idea that Simon Templar should become involved with the Knights Templar, but in fact the way it is handled is competent, if a little clichéd for a thriller setup - Simon gives a lift to a couple of young men heading for a French vineyard to work in the summer, and gets there to discover that someone has set the barn on fire. The vineyard is at a house which was originally one of the last Templar castles to remain in the hands of the knights after the suppression of the order by the French king in 1307, and suspected by some to hold the hidden Templar "missing" treasure (while more sober individuals suspect that the treasure never existed in the first place, and that the riches of the order were exaggerated).
While the book is satisfying as a thriller, it doesn't really read like a Saint book. It could almost be any late 1970s British thriller writer. The early Saint stories were unique, standing out from the crowd (even if they had obvious debts to Dornford Yates and Sapper), and Leslie Charteris was an expert at maintaining this specialness. It was partly that he made Simon Templar a genuinely charming character, rather than the direct man of action favoured by many other writers. That is really what is missing here; Simon Templar just isn't Simon Templar by 1978.
My rating: 6/10.