Sunday 14 April 2019

Leslie Charteris: Count on the Saint (1980)

Edition: Coronet, 1980
Review number: 1518

According to the website, this is by uncredited (as far as I can see) writers Graham Weaver and Donne Avenell - the same as the previous Saint book, The Saint and the Templar Treasure. Like many of the books which originated from the TV Saint adventures, Count on the Saint contains two independent stories, The Pastor's Problem and The Unsaintly Santa.

As soon as I started reading the first story, it felt as though I was back in the heyday of the Saint. This is a big contrast to The Saint and the Templar Treasure, which is a competent thriller but which is not convincing as part of the series. The setup is very Saintly indeed, as Simon Templar steals a chalice belonging to a church in order sell it to help the pastor raise money for the parish; the chalice can't be sold legitimately to raise money directly. (The chalice is meant to be real; the very obviously fake chalice shown on the cover of this edition does the story no favours.)

In his long history, Simon Templar points out several times that he is not a detective, usually before solving a mystery. The Unsaintly Santa is definitely a mystery, and Simon is definitely detecting. Set in Cambridge just before Christmas, the puzzle is to work out the identity of a killer dressed as Santa. Unlike some of the earlier attempts at detecting (where Simon's method is basically to accuse each person until the right one is exposed), this works quite well as a puzzle - but there very little need for it to be a Saint story.

For the reader, this is one of the best of the late Saint books. My rating: 8/10.

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