The Thirty-Nine Steps was written and is set in World War 1 era Europe, where conspiracies of worldwide war are at work. The story’s main character, Richard Hannay is leading a typical middle class life when he gets thrust in the middle of it all as a stranger shows up telling him of this conspiracy. When the stranger winds up dead, Richard takes it upon himself to bring the killers to justice and prevent the war from happening.
This novel is part thriller, part spy novel. In comparison to other novels from that era, this is written at a fairly fast pace. Although conspiratorial in nature, it was interesting how many of the things written in the book came to pass and how true to life the novel was. Buchan shows a high skill-level in his writing. Richard Hanney is a bit of an everyman—someone who gets thrust into a crazy situation and rises to the occasion. My only real complaint is that the villains in the story weren’t terribly well-developed and their motives seemed a bit shaky. The final confrontation made me feel a bit ambivalent. This was a good read. I’m generally not into fiction written over a century ago, but I think this novel works.
Carl Alves – author of Two For Eternity