"The Thirty-Nine Steps" by John Buchan
It is May of 1914 and Europe is close to war. Richard Hannay has recently returned to London from Africa to build a new life when he comes home one night to find his neighbour waiting for him at his door. His neighbour, a freelance spy, informs Hannay that he has uncovered a German plot to assassinate the Greek Premier during a visit to London and steal British war plans. With these people on to him, the spy has faked his own death and must stay alive until the plot is put into action so Hannay allows him to hide in his flat. But when Hannay returns home the next day to find the spy has been murdered, he soon finds himself caught up in the plot and on the run.
Hannay decides to take up where the spy left off, and he goes on the run through Scotland pursued by both the German spies and the police. He plans to alert the authorities of the plot at the last possible minute and thus has three weeks to stay alive in the Scottish terrain. When the time comes to alert the authorities, it becomes a race against time to find the German spies and thwart their plans.
The Thirty-Nine Steps is a classic "man on the run" thriller. The events of the book are shocking and pretty much unbelievable, which was Buchan's intent. Hannay is an "everyday man" who is caught up in an extreme situation and is a very likeable character.
There are some parts of the book in which the language or references may not be familiar to the reader, however the Oxford World's Classic edition provides notes and explanations to assist the reader.
This book is made up of personal and political drama, mystery and intrigue. Any reader who loves mystery and thrillers will enjoy this classic espionage tale.