The Thirty Nine Steps
Publisher: The Copyright Group Ltd.
Date: May 2017
Duration: 2 hours 10 minutes
The Thirty Nine Steps keeps the reader enthralled from beginning to end. From the opening scenes in a London flat to the final conclusion in a seaside villa, the jaunty, undaunted and remarkably resourceful Richard Hannay is at the centre of the action. His flight from London leads to an incredible chase across the Scottish moors the author knew so well. Finally Hannay turns from quarry to hunter. He tracks down the German spies and, alert and perceptive to the end, foils their evil plot in the nick of time.
1. DEATH OF A SECRET AGENT. Richard Hannay, newly arrived in London from southern Africa, is already tired of life in the city. Then his American neighbour; Scudder, pushes into his flat, spins him a fantastic tale of the planned murder of the Greek Prime minister, Karolides, and appeals for his help. Hannay believes him because of the naked terror on his face and agrees to let him stay. Scudder has faked his own death in an attempt to shake off the conspirators who know that he knows too much. However, the ruse does not work. Hannay returns home to find Scudder stabbed to death and himself in a fix. He will be both the prime suspect of murder inquiry and the next target on the conspirators' list. Hannay decides to flee to the Scottish moors to escape both the police and the murderers. By chance, he discovers Scudder's notebook and takes it with him.
2. FLIGHT AND PURSUIT. Borrowing the milkman's coat as a disguise, Hannay makes it to Scotland-bound train without being caught. He decides to jump from the train between stations and vanish onto the moors. But the farmer's dog disturbs his exit and attracts attention. Then, when he is up on the moor, he spots a low-flying aeroplane searching for him. Fortunately, he meets a sympathetic innkeeper willing to put him up and eager for some excitement. While hiding, Hannay starts to decipher Scudder's coded notes.
3. THE PLOT REVEALED. Hannay finally cracks Scudder's code and is appalled to learn of Germany's war plans. Soon he is in flight again, this time stealing a car belonging to the secret agents, whom the innkeeper entangles with the police. In trying to avoid being spotted from the air, Hannay almost hits another vehicle. He swerves and crashes the car. He is rescued by Sir Harry, the other motorist. Hearing that Hannay is a colonial, Sir Henry persuades him to help out with a political speech. Hannay then tells him the truth and in return is told of Sir Walter Bullivant, Harry's powerful godfather.
4. A SKILFUL DISGUISE. Hannay leaves Sir Harry under cover of darkness and heads across the moors. But in daylight he spotted by the spies' aircraft. Fortunately, he then meets a road-mender suffering from the after-effects of a wedding celebration and offers to take his place. So successful is his impersonation that all are deceived, even Marmaduke Jopley, an old acquaintance, whose car Hannay commandeers.
5. IN THE LION'S JAWS. Hannay soon abandons Jopley's car, but the alarm has been raised. He is pursued ever more closely, until he reaches a farmhouse. Here an old gentleman takes him in - but in fact Hannay is face to face with the mastermind of the German plot. He attempts to bluff his way out, but is imprisoned in the storeroom. There he finds explosives which he uses to blast himself free. After hiding on the roof of a nearby dovecote, he escapes once more.
6. THE EXCHANGE OF SECRETS. Returning to the road- mender's cottage, Hannay collapse, exhausted by his ordeal and suffering from malaria. He is slowly nursed back to health. He then heads south, to Berkshire, where by arrangement he meets Sir Walter Bullivant of the Foreign Office, using a password to prove his identity. After dinner, Hannay tells all he knows. In return, he learns he is no longer wanted for Scudder's murder and that although Bullivant knew Scudder, he cannot believe the rest of the tale. Then the news of Karolides' murder makes Bullivant abandon his scepticism.
7. THE CLOSING NET. Disguised as a chauffeur, Hannay drives Bullivant back to London, where he is taken to Scotland Yard and formally cleared of the murder charge. Later, because he is feeling restless, Hannay decides to call at Bullivant's home, where top-secret a naval conference is in progress. While waiting outside, Hannay realises that the admiral is really an imposer, but unfortunately is not quick enough to stop him getting away. Nevertheless, the spies must leave England by sea - and in the nick of time Hannay remembers the mysterious thirty-nine steps mentioned in Scudder's notebook. Frantic searches reveal that only Bradgate has both a flight of thirty-nine steps leading down to a beach and high tide that night at the time found in Scudder's jottings.
8. THE FINAL ENCOUNTER. Hannay arrives in Bradgate, a quiet seaside resort. Finally, he brings himself to confront his suspects, who deny everything. Hannay is almost taken in by their flawless performance as middle-class Englishmen, but a slight gesture by one of the men reminds him of his capture on the moor and he signals for help. Their cover is blown and the agents try to escape; but their boat has already been taken. War breaks out soon after and Hannay cheerfully joins up ready for more action.