I have been leaning toward reading classics since I finished the first draft of a list of a thousand or so to read for the rest of my life. Probably way too many and the list must be refined, but there’s nothing on it I’ve read that I don’t wish to read again and nothing that I never want to read, as there is on every list I’ve looked at. I had to make my own and I’ve worked on and off at it for years, but never quite could decide on which things and enough of them. So the next book I was going to read was going to be one on both lists – 20 Books of Summer and My Own Personal 1,000 Books I Must Read Before I Die – Greenmantle.
Second in the series of Richard Hannay adventures, Greenmantle follows The 39 Steps. You have more likely heard of The 39 Steps, made into a movie in 1935 by Alfred Hitchcock. Also turned into quite a funny play (all humor added by the adapters) in which all the roles are played by 4 actors. Greenmantle takes place during World War I. Hannay has been injured, but is now almost fully recovered. He’s called in to be given a special assignment. The Germans are up to something. They have a secret weapon – some sort of relic or religious treasure or maybe some sort of new prophet to inspire the Muslims to help the Germans capture the Middle East. The trouble is they don’t know who or what it might be. All they have is three obscure clues and the knowledge that the thing or person is heading toward Constantinople. Will Hannay find out what is happening and stop it? He’s given a free hand to choose his men and do whatever he thinks best to stop whatever it is. Quite a challenge.
Hannay takes it up, along with his friend Sandy, and an American with dyspepsia who plays a lot of solitaire. These adventures are not to modern taste. When I read a book and think there’s not enough violence, something’s wrong. Plot points tend to be based on a tremendous amount of luck – when he arrives in Portugal undercover, who should he meet, but his old friend Peter, a Boer tracker and hunter par excellence. They pair up disguised as men looking to fight for the Germans, but after initial success they run into problems in the form of a German officer called Stumm.
I don’t want to tell you what happens because it’s rather a fun read despite the reliance on massive amounts of luck and Hannay being quite a dope some of the time. It’s entertaining somehow despite the problems with the plot and the writing and Hannay’s (sometimes hilarious) character traits. It’s a quick read and I enjoyed it. I’ll probably try the next Hannay adventure, but I admit, it’s probably not for everyone.