Enter the Saint by Leslie Charteris and John Telfer (narrator)
|Enter the Saint by Leslie Charteris and John Telfer (narrator)|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: Three 'novelettes' (as they were then called) from the early days of the Saint. Varied, enjoyable reading and listening.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288/8 hours 35m||Date: December 2014|
|External links: Author's website|
When you think of thrillers written by a man in his early twenties there's a temptation to believe that the books might not be, well, top drawer, but that would be a mistake. The first of The Saint novels was published in 1928 when Leslie Charteris was just twenty one and this collection of stories is dated 1930. You might expect the rambunctious adventurer we meet, but not the subtleties of the slightly world-weary man of the world, all-knowing about the evils to which men (and women) can sink, but they're all there. Admittedly the Saint is more boisterous and less subtle than he will become - but that speaks more about the later works than this book.
These used to be called 'novelettes' - nowadays we call them novellas - substantial stories which don't quite add up to a full-length book in their own right but when the three of them are put together they each make for the sort of read which occupies a longish train journey or an enjoyable evening at home. They're ideal for the new fan who wants to go back to the original Saint stories. Thankfully they've not been revised - the dated topicalities remain and anchor the stories firmly in their period. I loved the idea of a criminal who made a decent living through doing time for someone else's crime at the rate of £10 a week with an extra £2 for hard labour. He was hoping to save up enough to retire before too long. Even better is the fact that the phrase gay buccaneering didn't have any sexual subtext.
The opening story is The Man Who Was Clever, the first of Charteris's stories at this length. Simon Templar seeks to bring Edgar Hayn, a drug smuggler, to justice. Hayn is convinced that he's cleverer than anyone else, but misjudges the Saint. Patricia Holm, Templar's girlfriend makes a cameo appearance. The second story is The Policeman With Wings and it follows on from The Man Who Was Clever but still reads well on its own. Templar and his colleague Roger Conway investigate two kidnappings and we meet Inspector Claud Eustace Teal of Scotland Yard for the first (but far from the last) time in the series.
The final novella in this book, The Lawless Lady is unusual in that the Saint makes only a brief appearance with the major part being taken by Dicky Tremaine who infiltrates a gang of criminals intent on a major robbery only to fall for the female leader. We've seen in the two earlier stories that Templar is not averse to using physical violence, but this is the first story in which we actually see Templar kill. A substantial part of the story takes place abroad or at sea - paving the way for many more stories with an international setting.
In terms of thrills the stories are a match for just about anything which is being written more than eighty years later, but I didn't realise what a relief it was not to have any bad language or overtly sexual scenes.
I listened to an audio version of the book provided for review purposes by Audible and it was a real treat. The narration by John Telfer is brilliant, with an exceptional mastery of the varied voices: I was particularly impressed by his female characters - I completely bought into them. Telfer didn't simply narrate the stories: he brought them to life and added to them.
For a full-length book form The Saint series we can recommend The Saint Closes the Case which is also narrated by John Telfer.
You could get a free audio download of Enter the Saint by Leslie Charteris and John Telfer (narrator) with a 30-day Audible free trial at Amazon.co.uk.
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Ian Dickerson said:
Nice review…only one thing, it’s Edgar Hayn, not Edward Hayn who’s the bad guy of The Man Who Was Clever. Ian
Ah, the perils of listening rather than reading! Thanks for letting me know, Ian - I've changed the name.