The Thirty-nine Steps, Paperback
3.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


John Buchan wrote The Thirty-Nine Steps while he was seriously ill at the beginning of the First World War.

In it he introduces his most famous hero, Richard Hannay, who, despite claiming to be an 'ordinary fellow', is caught up in the dramatic race against a plot to devastate the British war effort.

Hannay is hunted across the Scottish moors by police and spy-ring alike, and must outwit his intelligent and pitiless enemy in the corridors of Whitehall and, finally, at the site of the mysterious thirty-nine steps. The best-known of Buchan's thrillers, The Thirty-Nine Steps has been continuously in print since first publication and has been filmed three times, most notably by Alfred Hitchcock in 1935.

In this, the only critical edition, Christopher Harvie's introduction interweaves the writing of the tale with the equally fascinating story of how John Buchan, publisher and lawyer, came in from the cold and, via The Thirty-Nine Steps, ended the war as spy-master and propaganda chief.

ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Espionage & spy thriller
  • ISBN: 9780199537877



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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

This book got me thinking about the way technology has developed over the years - to such a degree that a story like this could not really happen in the modern age. The main character would have been caught on so many CCTV cameras, and mobile phones would have been buzzing..... Not having modern communications made it possible to have chase stories like this, and whilst it's probably a bit far fetched even still it's all good fun.

Review by

Before I write my review, I like to poke around and read other reviews, on amazon and goodreads and by searching google. I like to see if anyone's picked up something I missed that's worth thinking about, or if people are being perfect idiots about it. I've read that this book is terribly boring and you'd be better off reading a cereal box, I've read that this book is not suitable for girls, and I've read that it isn't suitable for Americans because the spelling is "weird".<br/><br/>Note my gender.<br/><br/>And the interesting fact that I'm supposed to deal with American spelling, but the Americans can't deal with ours... Ah, hypocrisy.<br/><br/>Anyway! The Thirty-Nine Steps is, apparently, one of the first spy novels. It's not a genre I'm incredibly interested in, but usually when I come across a mystery novel or whatever, I can get engrossed in it. This one's a very quick read, my copy is only a little over a hundred pages long, though the writing is quite small and close, which was a liiiittle irritating. Couldn't actually read it in bed without my glasses on! <br/><br/>That aside. It's quite a fun little story: tightly plotted, with several daring escapes and breathless moments. Suspension of disbelief is necessary, but not <I>too</I> necessary. The main character isn't the most likeable man in the world -- rich, bored, quite skilled at deceit, quick-tempered, a little whiny... But he isn't that bad, either. At least, I didn't particularly want him to get caught and killed. The writing was readable, too, quite immediate despite the past tense, and I didn't notice any particularly clunky parts.<br/><br/>It didn't bowl me over, not to the extent that I'd say "it was amazing" (five stars), but yeah, I "really liked it" (four stars).

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