Something I’ve been meaning to do for awhile, now made more urgent and poignant by the death of Michael D Johnson–a once weekly ebook review, to appear on Fridays. Most of the books reviewed will be freely available from Gutenberg or Manybooks, but I may throw in some others that require purchase. (Assuming I can get the ARCs for free, anyway…)

This week: The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan
Available from

This book, described by the author as a “shocker,” was first published in 1915.  It features the very clever and intrepid South African mining engineer, Richard Hannay, and a host of other repeating characters.  Although Hannay has taken up residence in London, he is soon caught up in a web of espionage and peril, in the lead up to the first World War.  An exciting read, full of rather unbelievable escapes and coincidences.  Hannay is modest and forthright, and not afraid to use his fists if necessary.  Full of period details–motor cars, servants, and stately residences on the beaches of England.  The first of five books by Buchan starring Hannay, that see him accept a commission during the war, make General, get knighted, and even marry and start a family.

This book has been made into a film on three occasions, with my favorite being the 1978 version starring Robert Powell as Richard Hannay.  The story is modified for the film and includes the famous “Big Ben” scene, which is not in the book!

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