Tuesday 7 May 2019

Leslie Charteris: Salvage for the Saint (1983)

Edition: Thomas & Mercer, 2014
Review number: 1519

After almost forty years, this is the final Saint book which I am reading for the first time, as well as being the last one published (aside from the Burl Barer contributions, neither of which I've been able to like enough to read right through). Salvage for the Saint was adapted  by Peter Bloxsom from a double episode of The Return of the Saint TV series written by John Kruse, the two of them being frequent choices by Leslie Charteris to work with turning TV scripts into books.

The story starts at a motorboat race on the Isle of Wight, in which Simon Templar is unable to save fellow competitor Charles Tatenor from a fatal accident - or possibly from murder.  He also meets the dead man's beautiful widow Arabella. The action moves to the south of France (one of the favourite European locations of Saint stories), Simon to investigate the murder and Arabella to sell a yacht, as her husband unexpectedly left nothing but it and debts.

In places, Salvage for the Saint has a wistful atmosphere which is appropriate to the last novel in such a series, and includes a number of melancholy references to older Saint stories. This is far more subtle than in the Burl Barer-penned Capture the Saint, which is full of contrived attempts to introduce names of older stories into the narrative - a piece of silliness which becomes infuriating after a few pages. It was Leslie Charteris' decision to stop at this point, and these touches are perhaps pointers to this being the final Saint story.

Diving is an crucial part of Salvage for the Saint, as it was to the early novel Saint Overboard, published almost fifty years earlier. In both novels, the diving technology is important to the plot, and it is hugely different - heavy suits with air hoses to the surface are now replaced by compact scuba tanks; to read both is to have a glimpse of how much had changed during the time that Leslie Charteris was writing.

All in all, this is a worthy conclusion to the Saint saga, though it doesn't match up to the quality of the early stories. My rating: 7/10.

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