The brisk pace and chapter cliff-hangers continue to come thick and fast and this is building into a real climax but there’s only so much you can do in one lunchtime sadly..
Highlights from chapters seven, eight, nine and ten
* Hannay makes his way back to the road mender’s house to get his clothes and Scudder’s notebook but because he has been out all night in the damp he develops a fever and stays there being nursed back to health for ten days
* The liberal candidate he spent time with has contacted his uncle in the foreign office and Hannay comes clean about all he knows and in return is told that he is no longer a suspect for the murder
* Together they go through the notebook but the Foreign Office expert dismisses the thought that anyone would want to kill the Greek leader but then he is interrupted for a phone call…
“He returned in five minutes with a whitish face. ‘I apologise to the shade of Scudder,’ he said. “Karolides was shot dead this evening at a few minutes after seven’.”
* Hannay is taken into the confidence of Sir Walter the Foreign Office official and told that an agent is coming from France and that the enemies of the state will do anything to get at him
* Back in London Scotland Yard clear his name and he heads to the Savoy to lie low for the night but he gets this yearning to be involved in the action and heads back to Sir Walter’s House
* A conference is in progress and the First Sea Lord comes in and then leaves except that Hannay seems to understand that it was an impostor and breaks into the conference and tells the remaining men
* After discovering their meeting was infiltrated the assembled company are horrified and expect the spy to head stray back to his masters with all the secrets but Hannay remembers the clue to the 39 steps and the tide
* They set off to the Admirality to check tide times and then drag in an old coastguard and they narrow down the location to the Kent coast and head off to try and stop the spies from leaving the country
* They converge on the location and work out that one villa has 39 steps to the sea but the house contains an old stockbroker and so Hannay is doubtful that he has the right place even after a boat moors out to sea containing a German trying to pretend to be English
* Hannay decides that the only course of action is to act as if he is totally confident of his plan and face the music if he is wrong because the stakes are too high to risk doing otherwise and he remembers a friend telling him that the beest form of disguise is ‘atmosphere’ which the men in the villa seem to have created perfectly
* He walks into the house and faces the three men who act so well they make him feel it has all been a mistake but then he recognises them and confronts them but as he blows his whistle one of the men escapes and the old man boasts that he has got away but then Hannay finishes the scene off with a great line:
“‘I hope Franz will bear his triumph well, I ought to tell you that the Ariadne [their escape boat] for the last hour has been in our hands.'”
Of course war breaks out but Hannay stopped some secrets from being used. What a great read. I’ll post a review in the next couple of days.