I'm glad I read the dedication* of John Buchan's The Thirty-Nine Steps or I might have given up in disgust by the third chapter. Since I had been warned to expect the improbable and even the nearly impossible, I was amused rather than dismayed at the long pile-up of unlikely events throughout the story. Our hero, Richard Hannay, has the uncanniest luck I have ever seen and is more than once saved from certain demise by the unlikeliest of rescuers. Hannay is unwittingly drawn into international political intrigue when a stranger shows up on his doorstep and ends up dead a few days later, leaving behind a little black notebook full of coded clues and a trail that leads his enemies straight to Hannay. A chase across Scotland and back to London ensues. Set in 1914 just before the start of World War I, this book is an early example of the spy novel. I'm not a huge fan of the genre, but it was interesting to read an early specimen.
The Thirty-Nine Steps was a fun-enough, easy read, a good choice after my rather serious Lenten reading. There are four more Richard Hannay novels, which I may or may not read, but I'm glad I've read this one after hearing so much about the author over the years. The Thirty-Nine Steps has been made into a movie several times. We own the Hitchcock version, so I will have to dig it out now and see what I think.
I must apologize that this review is late. We were out-of-town this weekend, and it turns out we had no internet access. Once the withdrawal symptoms ceased, we found we didn't really mind (except I couldn't post my review!).
*TO THOMAS ARTHUR NELSON
My dear Tommy,
You and I have long cherished an affection for that elementary type of tale which Americans call the "dime novel" and which we know as the "shocker"--the romance where the incidents defy the probabilities, and march just inside the borders of the possible. During an illnes last winter I exhausted my store of those aids to cheerfulness, and was driven to write one for myslef. This little volume is the result, and I should like to put your name on it in memory of our long friendship, in the days when the wildest fictions are so much less improbable than the facts.