Top critical review
Interesting story but hard going and ultimately unsatisfying.
1 March 2018
To be completely transparent I struggled to finish this book. I expected it to be a slight struggle based on its age and the language used in its writing, but I hadn't expected it to be like wading through quick drying cement. It's taken me much longer to finish it than I had assumed it would; particularly given how short a story it is.
I came at this novella fresh. I've never read it before, nor seen any of the film adaptations. It tells the story of Richard Hannay who, after making his fortune in South Africa, returns to London to live out his life as a gentleman. Courtesy of his new neighbour, however, he finds himself neck deep in a murder and a conspiracy designed to set the world on fire through war.
The basic premise of the story is Richard goes on the run in an attempt to clear his name. I have to admit, I hadn't assumed most of the book would be one long chase sequence, but that is what it was.
The book was an interesting read from a historical point of view. I aim to read one classic, at least, each year and this year marks 103 years since Thr Thirty-Nine Steps was originally released. I'm not going to patronise anyone by declaring the book a 'must not miss' classic, nor am I going to make suggestions for improvements. It's way past time for that.
For what it is, The Thirty-Nine Steps is a slowly paced spy thriller that focuses on only one plot line. There are no subplots, no extraneous characters. It's enjoyable but not something I'd have regretted never reading, and it's not one I'd reread.