Saturday, March 14, 2015

Book Review: "The Saint in New York" by Leslie Charteris

Before there was James Bond, Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade, there was Simon Templar, aka The Saint. Leslie Charteris first created the character of the Saint in 1928, and continued to write in whole or collaborate with other writers with the character until 1983. It is no secret that I am a big fan of the Saint. It was a huge thrill to find out that the Saint books, out of print for years, were being rereleased last year.

I taking this opportunity to read the series from start to finish, a daunting task considering that there are close to fifty novels in the series. I recently finished reading The Saint in New York, first  published in 1935. The Saint comes to New York City in pursuit of an offer he can't refuse: $1 million if he deals out his unique brand of justice to evildoers in the city.

Let me start by saying that this is not the Saint of the Roger Moore TV series, Vincent Price old time radio show, or even of the travesty of a film starring Val Kilmer. This is the Saint in his original gritty, no-holds-barred style. Even the early movies, starring George Sanders and Louis Haywood, had toned the character down. The truth is that, while the Saint may be ultimately a good guy, he is ruthless when it comes to dealing with criminals.

The Saint in New York takes the reader into the shadowy underworld of the city as the Saint takes on a gang being led by the mysterious Big Fellow. The detail of New York in the 1930s is very detailed, and sometimes breathtaking. Although not action-packed through every single page, the book doesn't slow down, and I found it hard to put down. Even though it is the fifteenth book in the Saint series, it works well as a standalone story that anyone can pick up and read without having read the previous books.

This is, by far, my favorite of the Saint books. It is true noir literature at its best. It's gritty, dark, and mysterious. The end comes with a nice twist that would have caught me off guard if I hadn't seen the 1938 movie of the same name. If you are a fan of noir fiction, you'll love The Saint in New York.

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