The Thirty-nine Steps

The Thirty-nine Steps

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Considered by many to be one of the greatest adventure novels of all time, "The Thirty-Nine Steps" is John Buchan's most successful work. Set during the First World War, it is the story of Richard Hannay, an ordinary gentleman who finds himself mixed up in a plot to undermine the British war effort. A fugitive from the law, Hannay must race against time to try and stop the plot. "The Thirty-Nine Steps" is an exciting adventure of mystery and espionage that will thrill and delight readers both young and old.

The Thirty-Nine Steps, John Buchan

Richard Hannay was visiting London in May. He had left Scotland at age six to work and find a small fortune in South Africa. Hannay was tired and bored after a month in London. At his flat a neighbor asked to speak to him in private, and asked for help. This stranger told of his travels in the Balkans and the things he learned about those who stirred up a revolution. Its all due to a conspiracy (money can be made on a falling market). But now Franklin P. Scudder knows too much to be allowed to live. An important foreign leader will visit London. He will be murdered by an Austrian and the evidence will point to Vienna and Berlin. Scudder told how he faked his own death! Hannay believed him, and sheltered him for days. When Hannay returned to his flat he found Scudder stabbed dead. Hannay now believes Scudder's story to be true. But Hannay will either be the next target or be charged and convicted for the murder. Life is no longer dull.

Hannay took steps to disguise himself and disappear. He found Scudder's notebook and tried to decipher its coded entries. Hannay must evade the police search and those seeking to kill him. The chapters tell of his flight and the events of his
capture by the killers and escape. Buchan describes the country and the characters Hannay met. Some of the words are obscure ("burnside"). Hannay finally meets Sir Walter and learns more. The police will no longer be an inconvenience. There is a new surprise when Hannay returns to Sir Walter's London mansion. Hannay figures out who is the spy, and his method. The next step is to intercept and stop him before he leaves England with the secret information. Of course this story has a happy ending.

The 1930s film by Alfred Hitchcock changed very many of the details of this story, so the novel will be fresh and interesting to a reader. Note how a person can simply disguise himself by a complete change of clothes and hat. Dashiell Hammett also mentioned this in his "Red Harvest". People remember clothing better than a face. The 1979 film is truer to the original story, but also changed details.

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