The Saint in "The Invisible Millionaire" by Leslie Charteris

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12-2-2011 4-13-48 PM.pngOne of the many wonderful surprises found in Otto Penzler's 2007 collection The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps  (click here to reserve our copy) is a great 1938 novella by Leslie Charteris featuring his classic character The Saint.  First published in the US in Black Mask magazine in June 1938 and subsequently included in that year's (now out of print)  Follow The Saint collection, "The Invisible Millionaire" has the famous Simon Templar (AKA The Saint), the so-called 'Robin Hood of crime', immersed in a bizarre murder mystery.

With his punchy, alcoholic assistant Hoppy Uniatz, who can only drink straight from the bottle (no glass), along, Templar responds late at night to a strange rendezvous with a woman named Nora Prescott.  Nora, who's later revealed to be the secretary of millionaire (and recent car crash survivor) Marvin Chase, left a message for Templar about how she's been forced into being "an accomplice in one of the most gigantic frauds that can ever have been attempted".  But then Templar finds her murdered and simultaneously gets invited to Chase's mansion by the millionaire's daughter Rosemary and her boyfriend Jim.  Seems the elder Chase, bedridden and heavily bandaged, and cared for by a Dr. Quintus, wants to meet him.  More murders ensue before The Saint discovers who Nora's killer is and what she meant in her message. 

12-2-2011 4-18-57 PM.pngA solid, fast-paced thriller, "The Invisible Millionaire" builds to an exciting cresendo of tension and suspense, as Simon, Hoppy and their hosts are stalked by a mysterious and ruthless killer in the proverbial Old Dark House.  The tale was so good it was adapted as an episode of the long running Saint TV series (starring Roger Moore) in 1963, with only a few changes. (Hoppy's gone, Chase has an unfaithful wife, and still unfortunate murder victim Nora is now depicted as an old girl friend of Simon's, which gives The Saint more of a personal motivation to figure out what's going on in the Chase household.) 

As a big fan of the character's literary and TV/movie incarnations, I enjoyed this brief but still powerful tale.  Here's hoping somebody gets on the case and someday republishes Leslie Charteris' novels and short story collections of the one and only Simon Templar.  We have this one available BTW. 

(The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps also features great stuff by the likes of James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Cornell Woolrich, among others.  Be sure to check it out.)

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This page contains a single entry by Ed published on December 2, 2011 3:57 PM.

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