This charming novel can, broadly speaking, be included in Buchan’s Richard Hannay series since its prologue is narrated by the eponymous character; however, it mainly features the familiar faces of Archie and Janet Roylance, Sandy Arbuthnot and John Blenkiron. These few find themselves embroiled in a revolution against a megalomaniac mining tycoon who plans to overthrow democracy around the world from his seat of power in the fictional South American country of Olifa. Despite enjoying the book greatly, my initial enthusiasm has worn down somewhat as I consider its many faults in retrospect. Moments of suspense and adventure are countered by sections of very dry, geographical descriptions of war tactics. Psychological and guerrilla warfare are portrayed with a stubbornly naive romanticism that must be taken lightly or it becomes ridiculous. Add to this that the plot isn’t the strongest and you have a book that is fun to read but ultimately not very satisfying.
[Why I read it: I think I saw it advertised in the end pages of the last Buchan book I read. My library didn’t have it, but managed to order in a beautiful first edition from a different library.]
This charming little story about a simple Norlander who, persecuted by a gang of ruthless criminals, enlists the aid of Richard Hannay and Co. is the last in the series, though why it was not included in The Four Adventures of Richard Hannay collection beats me. There was much to like about the tale, but it was noticeably rife with clumsy references to Buchan’s other works and suffered from an extremely contrived plot.
[Why I read it: I meant to read it ever since reading the first four books in the Hannay series last year, but we didn’t own a copy then. My sister got her hands on one somehow, but I wasn’t motivated to read it until she pulled it out recently for my mom, who enjoyed it a lot.]
I have long considered The Thirty-Nine Steps, Buchan’s first (and shortest) Hannay novel, to be good clean fun. It is a thrilling spy tale that is elegantly implausible and crisply confident, standing up well to multiple re-readings. Of the following three novels, I thought The Three Hostages to be closest in style and would give both it and the first story a solid 5/5.
The two middle novels fall off somewhat – both are sprawling stories, full of dry details and unnecessary tangents, while the second suffers from its ham-fisted treatment of the romantic subplot (for which failings I would rate them 3/5). Still, it was fun to become better acquainted with self-deprecating, ex-mining engineer Richard Hannay, part-time spy and full-time war hero.
[Why I read it: it got on my radar when I saw my brother reading it, especially since I was already a fan of the first novel.]