Check out my The Thirty-Nine Steps book summary and review  that I created to help you understand the basics of this great book.The 39 Steps (original title: The Thirty-Nine Steps) is a 1915 spy novel by John Buchan.The original edition was published by Hodder & Stoughton.This is the first novel in the Richard Hannay series which will consist of five novels.

The Thirty-Nine Steps book



The Thirty-Nine Steps book summary

London, May 19, 1914. Mining engineer Richard Hannay has returned from Rhodesia for three months and is already so bored to death by the routine of the British capital that he thinks of returning to Africa. That evening, one of his neighbors,

 the American Franklin P. Scudder, stops him on his way home and convinces him to be invited into the house. Once inside he tells him a strange story about a plot against the Greek prime minister, Carolidis: according to Scudder, Carolidis will be killed in three weeks, on June 15, during a meeting to be held in London.

Scudder also tells him that, in order to escape his enemies, she brought a corpse into his apartment which he disfigured so that it could be mistaken for him. The man is afraid of being killed, given the information he has about the plot to kill Carolidis, so he asks and gets permission to stay and sleep at Hannay's house.

Before going to sleep, Scudder shaves and washes and when he comes out of the bathroom, he looks like someone else. He introduces himself again to Richard as "Captain Theophile Digby of the 40th Guarkha currently on leave". The next day the engineer learns that a body was found in Scudder's apartment in his apartment building.

From the first investigations it would be the suicide of Scudder himself, who would have committed suicide by shooting himself in the face. This fact reinforces Hannay's belief that Scudder was telling the truth about the plot.

On the evening of May 23, returning home from a dinner, Richard discovers, in his apartment, Scudder's body lying on the ground and firmly nailed to the floor by a knife. Managing not to panic, he decides to disappear to prevent whoever killed Scudder from killing him too. As she collects his things,

 he realizes that his apartment has been completely ransacked, and then remembers a notebook that Scudder always kept with him. Maybe that's what the killers were looking for?

The next morning Richard finds, by pure chance, Scudder's notebook, and prepares to disappear from circulation: to try to do so without a trace, he convinces the milkman with an excuse to lend him his work uniform.

On the way to the train station, the engineer feels observed, perhaps even spied on but, despite everything, he manages to get on a train bound for Scotland. He tries to lose track by getting off at a tiny station with a practically empty train, and leaves the station without a particular destination, finding, by pure coincidence, the welcome first of a couple of peasants, and then of a guest passionate about books. . . . . . . 'adventure.

The real instigator of the murder, Richard will discover, is Germany: the men who killed Scudder, in fact, belong to an organization called "Black Stone", a group of German spies infiltrated in England with the express purpose of collecting military secrets. . . . . . . . . . and to start the war.

 On their side they have vehicles (cars and even a plane) and people in abundance, and in fact they manage to identify him several times, but Richard, with a lot of luck and a bit of cunning, always manages to break the encirclement and escape.

Not only that, he also decrypts Scudder's notebook and realizes that the plot to kill Carolidis is just an excuse to start a war between Russia and Germany. There are written all the background of the various countries with the possible mutual accusations and the false appeals for peace: in short,

the detailed plan of the movements of all the great countries of Europe. Bizarre terms are reported countless times in the notebook; among these, the enigmatic expression "Thirty-nine steps".

During his escape, Hannay casually meets Sir Harry, a young and honest Liberal Party politician. After hearing the extraordinary story, he decides to help him and writes a letter to his godfather, the secretary of the Foreign Office Sir Walter Bullivant, in which the modalities of an appointment between the latter and Richard are established.

Shortly after, chased by the police, he ends up taking refuge in the worst place: the cottage inhabited by the instigator of Scudder's murder. He is almost discovered and in doubt he is locked up in a warehouse, which turns out to be full of explosives: realizing that it is the only hope, Richard detonates the explosive and, although seriously injured in the explosion, manages to escape through the moor and save yourself.

Once recovered (and as he will later discover, also officially cleared of the murder charge), Hannay manages to get to the appointment with Bullivant, set for June 13, and to convince him of the plot against Carolidis, who is killed. that same evening. The two men thus return to London, to everyday life.

 But what Scudder and Hannay feared comes true: despite all the efforts made by the police to ensure that the chiefs of staff of the Triple Entente, who will meet the next day, meet in the utmost secrecy, the German spies manage to get hold of it. . . . . . . . . . . . . , almost unnoticed, some crucial information.

Richard intervenes to save the situation: thanks to his intuition, the man manages to decipher the meaning of the phrase "Thirty-nine steps", and thus to discover the lair of the spies, stopping them just in time. The plot has been thwarted, England is safe.

A few weeks later, the bombing of Sarajevo will cause the First World War anyway. Richard Hannay is appointed captain, but he knows that the most important battle was fought before the war even started.

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