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****The Thirty-Nine Steps

by John Buchan

Reviewed July 29, 2003.
Penguin Books, London, 1994.  First published in 1915.  103 pages.
I picked this up for a couple of pounds in a tourist shop in Scotland.  An American edition is available via along with the novel The Power-House by the same author for $10.36.

Richard Hannay had recently arrived in London from South Africa, and he was bored.  One day, a stranger from an apartment upstairs urgently asks to come in.  After checking that the door is locked, he apologizes that he’s a bit rattled tonight.  “You see, I happen at this moment to be dead.”

Mr. Hannay thinks the guy’s crazy, but the man goes on to tell a tale of his adventures as a spy and some vital information he has about a sinister event of international importance due to take place on June 15th.  That morning, he got a card in his box from a dangerous enemy, so he faked his own death and is now looking for a place to hide.

Things seem to go smoothly, and the man stays in Mr. Hannay’s apartment for a few days.  He tells Mr. Hannay a few details about his important work, but Richard doesn’t take him very seriously.  Until the day he comes home and finds the man dead.

Richard decides he had better leave quickly.  He makes a daring escape and ends up chased across the Scottish moors by both the police and the international villains.  He uses several inventive ways to elude capture and to eventually foil the plot of the spies trying to bring about the destruction of Britain.

This is a fun, old-fashioned spy yarn, perfect for light vacation reading.



Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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