The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915) by John Buchan is a wonderful suspense/adventure story. There has been a few film adaptations of this novel in 1935, 1959 and 1978. I haven’t seen any of the film versions but my Mum and sister seen the 1935 version directed by Alfred Hitchcock and loved it. I’m watching that version later on tonight.
The book is told from the point of view of Richard Hannay. He has recently came back to London after being in Rhodesia. Then enter Franklin P. Scudder, a spy, who has inside information about a plot to murder the Greek Premier Constantine Karolides and to disrupt Europe. Scudder informs Hannay that he has made out he is dead and how he is on a mission to find German spies the Black Stone. Hannay lets Scudder hide out in his flat but soon Scudder is killed and Hannay becomes suspect number one. He goes on the run and begins investigating what he has heard from Scudder. He ends up on the run in his native Scotland. In Galloway. What lies ahead is a fight for survival that is engrossing all the way through.
I very much enjoyed the book. It is written very well and the character of Hannay is an interesting narrator. There is parts like the milkman agreeing to give his outfit to him without asking too many questions which doesn’t seem totally plausible but I let those things go and went with the flow. Because little things like that aside, this is amazing. The plot is very straightforward but was quite new at the time of Buchan writing this book. I felt bad for Hannay with everything he was going through because after all, his meeting with Scudder was really quite by chance and then his whole life was turned momentarily upside down. But also there is a certain adventure side to the whole thing too. He is meeting all these people, seeing all these places in Galloway and experiencing so much life: good, bad, in-between and indifferent. And from the safety of your own home, you get to go on this adventure with him without fearing being bombed or the like. The mystery in this story is excellent, well thought through, great twists and turns.
An amazing read.
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