The 39 Steps

39 steps 7There are three great things here, the first is that I’ve finally read this book (and thoroughly enjoyed it), the second is that I’ve read it in June (when it’s set) and the third is that I’m actually writing a review almost as soon as I’ve finished!

So it’s May and Richard Hannay is in London from South Africa and is bored to tears, he gives himself one more day to find excitement before he gives in and heads back home.

Luck is on his side, waiting for him on his doorstep is a man he’s never seen before but who has been watching him and needs his help.  Scudder, an American, tells Hannay a remarkable story about a conspiracy to assassinate the Greek Premier at a Foreign Office tea party on the 15th of June, he knows too much and is being watched. He stays for a couple of days, reading and smoking and filling Hannay in on more details – about a man with a lisp, another who can hood his eyes like a hawk and Black Stone. But on the 23rd of May Hannay returns to his flat and finds him ‘skewered to the floor’ with a long knife through his heart.  He finds Scudder’s black notebook of evidence and determines to finish the game.

There are 20 days until June 15th and realising he’s in the soup with both Scudder’s enemies (because he knows too much) and the police (who will be after him for his murder) Hannay decides to vanish to the wilds of Scotland and so catches the 7.10 train from St.Pancras to Galloway.

Across moorland, through thatched villages their gardens blazing with hawthorn, over meadows, high heather covered hills and peaceful lowland streams it’s not just the thrilljohn buchan of the chase, John Buchan paints a picturesque scene as Richard Hannay races from one adventure to the next, using his wits and the help of some eccentric locals (or are they?)

37 years old and ‘sound of wind and limb’ Hannay is such good company, he can manage to say things like: ‘Now my life on the veld has given me the eyes of a kite, and I can see things for which most men need a telescope . . .’ and get away with it! But the big question is, how is he going to catch the ‘moorland desperadoes’ when he has no idea who they are and what or who is Black Stone?

Luckily he remembers some advice given to him years earlier about the art of disguise, ‘A fool tries to look different: a clever man looks the same and is different.’ Can he find the people who are playing their hand too realistically?

This was lots of fun and has a terrific denouement!

 

 

 

 

 

14 thoughts on “The 39 Steps

  1. I did enjoy this book, but it’s one where I actually enjoyed the film even more – the ancient Hitchcock version, that is. He took a lot of liberties with the plot – a lot! Including the introduction of a blonde, of course – but it has some great comedy and plenty of thrills. He changes that ending completely though…

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  2. Wonderful review, Jane! I feel I must read the novel at some point, partly because the Hitchcock film is such a favourite – a perfect Sunday afternoon movie, preferably when the weather is dark and gloomy. Interesting to hear that there are no female characters in the book – a function of this type of fiction in its day, perhaps?

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    1. It was only when I finished it and saw the film posters that I realised there were no women (or none that I remember). It’s lots of fun and racing around Scotland makes you want to put your tweed on and go for a spin!

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  3. I read this last year and although I don’t think I enjoyed it quite as much as you, I did find it fun to read! This is the only book I’ve read by Buchan, but I do want to try more of them.

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    1. It’s the only one I’ve read as well, I have The Green Mantle sitting on a shelf so I should give that a go. I think I was just in the right mood at the time for some action in heathery tweeds!

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  4. What I remember is the version with Robert Powell although I’m certain I’ve seen the Hitchock version too – just can’t recall the blonde woman everyone mentions in this thread! But I’ve never read the book. Like you, reading something at the time of year in which it is set is always a bonus so I’m going to mark this one to enjoy next summer. I can imagine it must be a rollicking read! Perect for next years 20/10/15 books of summer in fact!

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    1. Yes, it would be good for the 20 books of Summer, you could even plan it to finish on 15th June. I haven’t seen the Robert Powell but I did also see a modern version with Rupert Penry Jones which I thought was really good fun (I’m afraid!)

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  5. I love period things which are really good fun! I must look out for that version. And yes – if I can schedule to finish on 15th June 2021 it would be extremely satisfying! 😊

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