The Thirty-nine Steps, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (4 ratings)


Perhaps more than any other book The Thirty-Nine Steps has set the pattern for the story of the chase for a wanted man. And, of the many writers who have attempted this kind of thing since Buchan, only a very few, like Graham Greene, have managed to sustain the tension in the same way.

The main character is Buchan's familiar hero, Richard Hannay who gets caught up quite suddenly on a dull London afternoon in a situation of extreme danger.

Before he knows what is happening he is the obvious suspect for a murder committed in his own flat, and has to go on the run to his native Scotland.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • ISBN: 9780140011302

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Showing 1 - 4 of 4 reviews.

Review by

Even though I've always enjoyed espionage novels, for some reason I had never read Buchan's classic. I had only experienced it through the Hitchcock movie. With a new version airing on PBS's Masterpiece in a couple of weeks, I decided to do what I should have done a long time ago: read the book. Even though I had recently seen the Hitchcock version on TV, the movie plot had been altered enough that it didn't serve as a spoiler for the action in the book. I didn't have any more idea of what was coming next than the first person narrator did. If anything, I probably felt more dread than the narrator did. As the action started in May of 1914, he only feared what might happen given the current state of world affairs. I knew what happened just weeks later in the summer of 1914 that launched the world into a Great War. Buchan doesn't waste a lot of words in telling this story, so reading it doesn't involve a huge time commitment. I would encourage all mystery, thriller, and espionage fans to read this classic of the genre.

Review by

Nice, neat little book that moderately kept my interest. The constant focus on successful disguises kept it slightly out of my realm of believability. And I did also have a little trouble following the political crisis and what it was everyone was actually trying to stop.....but i may have been distracted. If nothing else, it makes me want to take a bike ride throughout England and Scotland to experience first-hand the scenery very vividly described.

Review by

A rollicking good little yard that doesn’t insult its readers’ intelligence with blatant impossibility. Perfect of its type.

Review by

The book, as is stated at the beginning, was deliberately written as an implausible adventure story where the hero keeps on escaping by the skin of his teeth, rather like the comic strip stories that appeared in weekly magazines. It's set in the year 1914. <br/><br/>Richard Hannay is the protagonist, a wealthy engineer who has been living in London for a while but is bored with the lifestyle. Then, as he’s about to give up his flat and leave, a stranger arrives on his doorstep with a worrying story about international politics and intrigue…<br/><br/>Over the next few weeks, Hannay's life is far from mundane. He flees to Scotland, and takes refuge with a series of unlikely people. He dons many disguises, and, in teenage adventure story style, escapes each scenario by cleverness or luck, before finally returning to London. The story is told in the first person, so it's not a spoiler to say that he escapes.<br/><br/>Inevitably most of the other people in the story are caricatured like comic strip stereotypes. But the writing is good, albeit a bit dated, but that's hardly surprising. It's fast-paced and exciting, with just enough description to set each scene. In many places there is politically incorrect commentary, but that’s par for the course with this era and style of writing. <br/><br/>‘The Thirty-Nine Steps’ is just over 100 pages long so I read it in a few hours. The ending is rather abrupt; but the final paragraph slots extremely well into the realities of world history. <br/><br/>This isn’t a thriller in the modern sense of the word, but it’s one of the earliest of the genre, now considered a classic, and may have inspired subsequent novels on similar themes. It has to be taken with a very large pinch of salt, but still, I would recommend it to anyone, teen or adult, who is interested in literature from this era.