Author: John Buchan
Publication Date: 1915
Review Score: 8/10
In The 39 Steps we are introduced to the steely, charming and witty Richard Hannay, the adventure hero who appears in 5 of Buchan’s novels, but none so delightful as this first one.
In this original Richard Hannay novel we find our leading man accidently caught up in an international plot of war, after a murder is committed in his apartment, and so, to save himself from the clutches of the police or worse, he must flee London, travel to Scotland and figure out what rouse is a foot.
It may sound like a basic idea and a story that has been told a hundred times, but the way in which Buchan weaves the plot makes it highly exhilarating and very unpredictable.
Giving the reader very little to piece the mystery together throughout, the book is able to hold its fast pace right until the end. Along the way you can’t help but get caught up in the continual shock and awe of events and become completely compelled towards Hannay who is a fantastically well developed character.
This may just seem like a stream of praise rather than an adequate description of the book, but there isn’t much to say but that. You know what a mystery, adventure tale is and this is one of the greatest!
I suppose, the best way I can think to describe it is by saying, the mixture of mystery, crime and adventure makes The 39 Steps a kind of cross between Sherlock Homes and James Bond. Hannay is less intelligent that Holmes and not as violent as Bond, but he is adequately equipped in both departments.
Inspiration to the likes of Graham Greene, Ian Fleming and John le Carré, The 39 Steps is well deserving of its place in literary history and on the list of 1,001 Books to Read Before You Die.