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This series from Mullholand Books, with the blessing of the Saint Club, has afforded me the opportunity both to catch up on Leslie Charteris's Saint books that, for whatever reason, I missed reading, plus to reacquaint myself with old friends. This volume is very definitely in the latter category.

With perhaps now a better appreciation of writing skills, I have come to the conclusion that much of the best of Charteris's writing came in the thirties. There is something fresher and livelier, to my taste, about the books from then. It was when he wrote most of the Saint novels. These, at their best, are probably the writings by Charteris that I rate most highly. Even from then, the short stories strike me as, by and large, not quite of the same quality as the novels- though there are some mighty fine ones. This leaves the novellas, or novelettes as Charteris preferred to call them. These, usually in batches of three, also contain some of the best writing, none more so than here, which is as good as in the best novels.

There is also, unusual for the books of novelettes, a continuity of line in the three stories that gives this one the feel of a novel, though each story could also be read separately. Continuity is very definitely apparent here in the development of the relationship between Simon Templar and his favourite nemesis, Chief Inspector Teal. It starts in the first story, when Teal calls in on the Saint and makes a deal with him. In the second they fall out, and this sequence of events reaches a climax in the third and final story where Simon has a nasty showdown with the policeman which leaves a bitter taste. The other consistent feature is Simon's relationship with his live-in girlfriend (considered less respectable then), Patricia Holm, who is an active partner and even in one story arrives gun in hand to rescue him.

The stories are typically told at a fast pace, as well as with the customary humour. Charteris is in top form here. In the first, the Saint deals with a nasty blackmailer, while looking for money to pay off someone even Simon Templar cannot defeat, namely the taxman, though readers will surely relish in his railing at the Inland Revenue. In the second story, he foils a plot to undermine the Italian currency. The final story is a caper with Simon after some stolen diamonds with a hilarious fight in a car, and a wonderful finale where he makes some recompense with Teal before sailing off with Pat into what will be the events in the next Saint novel, The Saint's Getaway (Saint 09).

In an introduction included for the second story, Leslie Charteris states that this book was the one with which he gained full confidence in his writing abilities, and in the Saint. It remained one of his favourites, and rightly so. Everything came right here. This is one of the very best Saint books.
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on 2 June 2014
...or poor old Claude Eustace, would be more accurate. In three mad, fast paced tails Simon Templar runs rings around the law. What is always a joy - to me - is Mr Charteris's command and love of the English language. This is made all the more praiseworthy as it wasn't his first language.

I'm now getting my head down ready for the next chronicle of saintly adventures....
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"The Holy Terror" (aka "The Saint vs. Scotland Yard) is one my favourites of the books of (usually three) Saint "novelettes", the other being The Misfortunes of Mr. Teal.

In "The Inland Revenue", Simon has to deal with equally implacable adversaries: a blackmailer known only as the Scorpion, and His Majesty's Inspector of Taxes ("Not that there's a great deal of difference. The same threatening letters, the same merciless bleeding of the honest toiler...").

"The Million Pound Day" — which would have been around 1931, of course — would cost at least a hundred million now, a sum certainly enough to prompt the associated shenanigans, in which the Saint rescues a man from torture and finds himself involved in a plot to swindle the Bank of Italy.

And "The Melancholy Journey of Mr. Teal" finds the Saint for once unable to talk his way out of trouble, and on the brink of being arrested — leading gracefully into the next book, one of the best of all Saint adventures, a romp through a Germany that was not yet quite Hitler's.

Incidentally, those who have been clubbed to the ground by O-Level French (or whatever the equivalent is nowadays) may doubt that anyone — in addition to being able to box, throw knives and play the banjo — could really speak as many languages as the Saint does. But there are such people: Sir Richard Burton (the explorer, not the actor) apparently absorbed languages like blotting paper, being able to pass the brutal Civil Service translators' exams after six months. Charteris himself was a polyglot, later writing a textbook on Spanish (which I would love to get hold of).

Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494) reportedly spoke eighteen languages; but as to whether he could play the banjo, we are not informed.

P.S. For a list of all Charteris's Saint books (in two sections, because of length limitations) see my Listmanias.
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on 5 June 2014
I just want to make a general appreciation of the fact that these wonderful books are back in print - with excellent introductions by crime writers and other enthusiasts. These books which are not sufficiently well known these days are up there with P G Wodehouse, better than James Bond and much better than almost anything else in their genre.

I know of many people who will tell you that their lives, attitudes and resilience have benefitted from an early acquaintance with Simon Templar. Well, now he's back for a new generation. The Saint Goes On !
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on 22 September 2014
Like all Saint books it was as good & amusing as usual a good read I will read many of them again
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on 25 November 2015
Somewhat out dated now, but still an enjoyable read.
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