lørdag den 22. januar 2011
John Buchan, The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915)
This so-called dime novel is the Scottish writer´s debut.
After several years in South Africa Richard Hannay feels terribly bored by the London weather and his countrymen. “…the amusements of London seemed as flat as soda-water that has been standing in the sun.”
Hannay, who needs new friends, not sights and clubs, has almost made up his mind to return to South Africa when Scudder, a very nervous neighbour, approaches him for help. He is a war correspondent from Kentucky who has been involved in a political conspiracy involving Russia, Germany and the Jews (sorry, this was written before anyone thought of political correctness). He claims he is the only person who can prevent an assassination of the Greek Premier which is why he has arranged his own ´death´.
Hannay begins to feel more cheerful, his life has a purpose again. And when Scudder is really killed a few days later, Hannay decides to do his best to accomplish Scudder´s mission. As both the British police force and Scudder´s enemies are after him, he escapes to Scotland where he plays hide-and-seek for weeks, dressing up in the most amazing disguises. His Scottish childhood comes in very handy:
“´There´s waur jobs and there´s better,´ I said sententiously. ´I wad rather hae yours, sittin´ a´ day on your hinderlands on thae cushions. It´s you and your muckle cawrs that wreck my roads!´”
Despite the spy angle, which has never been a favourite of mine, this story was a rather fine old puzzle, including ciphers and a protagonist with all sorts of competences. Hannay is your typical bachelor gentleman, a bit of a cross between Sherlock Holmes who prefers using his little grey cells and the more physically active Lord Peter Wimsey.
This was a free book from Manybooks.net; I read it for the Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge # 2