Review – The Thirty-Nine Steps

The Thirty-Nine StepsSometimes, I like to go old school with my books. This book was one of those occasions. I should start off by telling you that The Thirty-Nine Steps is a serial story that appeared in a magazine in and around 1915 or so. I found it interesting for that reason; the fact that it was an old school spy thriller took it over the top though. However, there’s a reason for my telling you this up-front but the valuable lesson learned will be shared in a moment.

Richard Hannay is an ordinary man trying to settle into his London home after years away in South Africa when a neighbor, Franklin Scudder, corners him and tells him that he’s uncovered a German plot to assassinate a Greek Premier and he needs help hiding out. Soon after agreeing to hide Scudder, Hannay comes home to find him dead. From then on, Hannay is running from everyone. He can’t go to the police, he doesn’t know who is really chasing him, and he doesn’t know if any of it is real or not. Running is his one and only option.

Lesson learned: if you are going to read a serialized story, read it that way. Each chapter is a complete story, in a way. There’s a distinct beginning, middle, and end. Yes, you can say that of most novels but it’s especially true in this case since each chapter was run by itself it needed to reintroduce the characters and story in subtle ways. When I tried to read this book all in one sitting, it didn’t work. I started to wonder if I would even finish it because it wasn’t working for me. So, I started and ended each chapter at lunch. And it clicked! The book started working and I was in love with it. It became exciting to see how Hannay was going to get out of his predicament and who he would meet up with next. It was my lunch reading and I couldn’t wait for it.

It’s a man on the run thriller, one the first of its kind from what I remember reading about this story. The story itself is a great distraction too. I got caught up and was happy to see things work out in some cases or be left wondering about the next set up.

Warning: if you’re going to read this, go one chapter at a time and let the story play out. It’s so much better that way. And try it you should. You can get it from The Gutenberg Project for free so go and do that.

The Thirty-Nine Steps
By John Buchan

A Gutenberg Project Ebook

Review – Twice a Spy

Twice a Spy

By Keith Thomson

Doubleday

ISBN: 978-0-385-530-79-8

3.75 stars

I can be a sucker for a thriller/spy novel and when I was contacted about reviewing this one, I agreed.  It has been a good minute since I read a book like this and I do try to step out of my comfort zone when possible.

Charlie Clark is a gambler, a wiz with math but he still can’t win with the horses, so he goes on the run with his girlfriend Alice, who just happens to a NSA agent, and his father Drummond Clark who in fact was a spy but is now suffering from Alzheimer’s.  The interesting thing about Drummond is that when necessary, he can recall his old spy skills which help them get out of a few situations that would have left anyone but Drummond Clark dead.  In Twice a Spy, the plot revolves around a washing machine which is actually a nuclear bomb and a group of terrorists trying to get their hands on it.

This is the second book in an obvious much larger series waiting to happen.  I didn’t read Once a Spy, the precursor, so at times I did feel slightly lost but not because of the story which is easy enough to follow but because I didn’t feel as though I knew these characters well enough.  There’s an interesting camaraderie going on between Charlie and his father but I felt there might have been more about that in the first book.  It transferred well enough but since I’m the type of person that likes to read books in order, it could very well have been my sub-conscience being annoyed at me for not reading the first.

Drummond is a particularly interesting character though and I enjoyed seeing him pull up spy tactics as if he were watching a movie.  The plot, while there, is thin but that’s all right.  It’s a book about terrorist and a bomb so it has all the elements and it moves.  And I mean it moves fast.  The chapters are short.  Dialogue is short.  It’s pretty much non-stop action which is what you expect in a book of this nature.  I don’t know if it’s a series I would continue with, but I thought this installment was a good fast read.

This book was sent to me by the publisher for review.