Book #100

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan

Recently returned from South Africa, adventurer Richard Hannay is bored with life, but after a chance encounter with an American who informs him of an assassination plot and is then promptly murdered in Hannay's London flat, he becomes the obvious suspect and is forced to go on the run. He heads north to his native Scotland, fleeing the police and his enemies. Hannay must keep his wits about him if he is to warn the government before all is too late.

Richard Hannay finds London life boring. The lunches, the walks, the people - all are utterly dull compared to his recent forays in South Africa. Richard is not to fear, however, as a neighbour soon asks to be secreted within his flat as some undesirables are in search of him. He has knowledge of an assassination plot - knowledge which could have him killed. Well, predictably, he is killed and Richard becomes the prime suspect. Henceforth, confusion and a lot of tramping about ensue.

He initially flees to Scotland, and seems to walk through a tremendous proportion of heather, I am assuming to remind us that he’s in the mother country. We trudge along with him as he gets himself into inexplicable predicaments, and then out of them again, almost as though by magic. The plot is incredibly set in his favour, and a huge number of unlikely situations occur, with some just as unlikely escapes.

The entire conspiracy was lost on me. I knew it was political, I knew there was murder afoot, I knew Richard being involved was a very unfavourable circumstance, but other than that, I was lost. This meant the minuate of the finale fell on to a dumb mind, but regardless of my disengagement, it was a poor poor finish.

A short read, gorgeous in its depictions of the Scottish countryside, and bonus points for excellent colloquialism, but it falls flat in the mystery and suspense categories, eliciting nothing but bafflement and empty-headed apathy.