Greenmantle by John Buchan

Greenmantle by John Buchan was my Classics Club Spin book to read by 31 January. I read the free Kindle edition (525 pages).

Greenmantle (Richard Hannay Book 2)

3*

Greenmantle is the second of five novels by John Buchan featuring the character of Richard Hannay, first published in 1916, the first being The Thirty-Nine Steps. It was written as the First World War was being fought, before the Battle of the Somme. Many of Buchan’s friends and his younger brother were killed in the war and his adventure stories are a form of escapism. It continues Hannay’s story, taking him from convalescence in  a big country house in Hampshire following the Battle of Loos in 1915, back to London for a vital meeting at the Foreign Office, and then to a top-secret and perilous mission across war-torn German-occupied Europe.

Narrated by Hannay, this is basically an adventure and spy story with a highly improbable plot. It’s pure escapism, as Hannay and his comrades, Sandy Arbuthnot, Peter Pienaar, a South African Boer, who Hannay met in South Africa when he was working as a mining engineer before the First World War, and an American, a dyspeptic businessman, John S Blenkiron embark on a quest, travelling incognito across Germany to Constantinople, reaching a climax at the battle of Erzurum in eastern Anatolia (Asian Turkey) in 1916.

Sandy, a master of disguise, is I think the hero of the book, although Hannay is the man in charge of their investigation. Ludovick Gustavus Arbuthnot, known as Sandy, was in the same battalion as Hannay during the Battle of Loos. The book begins as Hannay received a telegram from Sir Walter Bullivant summoning him to the Foreign Office where he offers him a ‘crazy and impossible mission’ to investigate the rumours of an uprising in the Muslim world. Bullivant tells him:

There is a dry wind blowing through the East, and the parched grasses wait the spark. And the wind is blowing towards the Indian border. Whence comes the wind, think you. (page 9)

The only clues they have to guide them are the words ‘Kasredin’, ‘cancer’ and ‘v.I’.

I was fascinated by the first half of the book as Hannay and the others set out on their mission, following the events of 1916, after the Gallipoli disaster as the Germans were supplying munitions to their allies, the Young Turks. Hannay describes his brief meeting with the Kaiser, Wilhelm II, who he felt had ‘loosed Hell, and the furies of Held had got hold of him.’

I didn’t think Buchan’s villains were particularly convincing as characters, the most evil being the mysterious Hilda von Einem. She fascinated Hannay whilst at the same time he instinctively hated her as he realised she was trying to cast a spell over him. The German Colonel von Stumm is a big man, a brute and a bully, whose ‘head was exactly the shape of a pear with the sharp end topmost’. Hannay thought he was

the German of caricature, the real German, the fellow we were up against.  He was as hideous as a hippopotamus, but effective. Every bristle on his odd head was effective. (page 84)

I liked the contrast between the ordinary and the exotic. The ordinary, such as the domestic scenes as in the opening scene of the book with Hannay just finishing breakfast and Sandy hunting for the marmalade. When Hannay returns from the Foreign Office with his mission in hand Sandy is eating teacakes and muffins. Blenkiron’s diet is mentioned several times as he only eats boiled fish and dry toast whilst drinking hot milk. On the other hand the exotic is found in the Garden-House of Suliman the Red, in the garden of a tumble-down coffee house, transformed from a common saloon into a place of mystery where the Companions of the Rosy Hours perform their potent magic of dance, making the world appear at one point ‘all young and fresh and beautiful’ then changing into something savage and passionate, ‘monstrous, inhuman, devilish’, until the spell is broken.

In the second half or the book the pace increases when they reach Constantinople and Buchan describes the action of the battle at Erzerum. But I found that it didn’t hold my attention as much as the earlier sections of the book, but then again I’m not keen on descriptions of battles and fighting. Overall, then I enjoyed it, which is why I’ve given it 3* on Goodreads.

This is my third book for the Mount TBR Challenge, a book I’ve owned for nearly 5 years, and as well as being on my Classics Club list it is also a book that fits into the When Are You Reading Challenge, being set in 1916, and as it it a spy/espionage story it also qualifies for the Calendar of Crime Challenge.

 

 

The Classics Club Spin Result

Classics Club

The spin number in The Classics Club Spin was announced today. It’s number …

1

which for me is Greenmantle by John Buchan. The rules of the Spin are that this is the book for me to read by January 31, 2019.

Greenmantle

Greenmantle is the second of five novels by John Buchan featuring the character of Richard Hannay, first published in 1916. I’ve read the first, The Thirty-Nine Steps.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

Richard Hannay is tasked to investigate rumours of an uprising in the Muslim world and takes off on a hair-raising journey through German-occupied Europe to meet up with his old friend Sandy Arbuthnot in Constantinople, where they must thwart the Germans’ plans to use religion to help them win the war. Set during World War I, Greenmantle is a contraversial meditation on the power of political Islam (it was pulled from Radio 4’s schedule at the time of the 7 July bombings).

I’m really pleased this book came up in the Spin for me as it will fit in with my reading about World War I.

Did you take part in the Classics Spin? What will you be reading?

He Who Whispers by John Dickson Carr

He Who Whispers by John Dickson Carr was my Classics Club Spin book for August. It was first published in 1946. Carr (1906 – 1977) was an American writer who also wrote under the pseudonym of Carter Dickson and Carr Dickson. In 1936 he was elected to the Detection Club in London. He Who Whispers is one of his ‘locked room’  mysteries/impossible crimes, featuring Dr Gideon Fell, an amateur sleuth.

He Who Whispers by John Dickson Carr

I really didn’t know what to expect so I was pleased to find that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s well written, set in 1945 just after the end of the Second World War when Miles Hammond is finding it hard to getting used to peacetime. London is still showing the scars of the war and he feels that his life is unreal. He has been discharged from the Army after being in hospital suffering from diesel-oil poisoning.

Then, gasping out to the end like a gauleiter swallowing poison, the war is over. You come out of hospital – a little shakily, your discharge papers in your pocket – into a London still pinched by shortages; a London of long queues, erratic buses, dry pubs; a London where they turn on the street-lights and immediately turn them off again to save fuel; but a place free at last from the intolerable weight of threats.

People didn’t celebrate that victory hysterically, as for some reason or other the newspapers liked to make out. What the newsreels showed was only a bubble on the huge surface of the town. Like himself, Miles Hammond thought, most people were a little apathetic because they could not yet think of it as real. (page 6)

His friend, Dr Gideon Fell, has invited him to dinner as a guest at the Murder Club, their first meeting in five years, where the speaker is Professor Rigaud. But when he arrives he finds none of the members of the Club have turned up. The only other people there are the Professor, and a beautiful blonde called Barbara Morell. Rigaud, however, tells them the story he had prepared for the Club – a tale of an impossible murder on the top of a ruined tower, that had once been part of a French chateau burnt down by the Hugeunots in the 16th century, and a mysterious woman, Miss Fay Seton.

The body of Howard Brooke was found lying on the parapet of the tower by two children between 10 minutes to 4 and 5 minutes past 4. He had been stabbed through his body with a sword-stick and yet the evidence showed conclusively that during this time not a living soul came near him. Rigaud points out the difficulties of scaling the wall of the tower, leading Miles to suspect he is alluding to ‘some sort of supernatural being that could float in the air‘ – in other words, a vampire.

Now, six years later Miles, Rigaud and Barbara together with Dr Fell set about trying to solve the mystery. I was fascinated by Dr Fell, supposedly based upon G. K. Chesterton (author of the Father Brown stories), in his appearance and personality. He’s immensely tall and fat, with a big mop of grey-streaked hair, and wearing a long, dark cape. He strides along ‘with a rolling motion like an emperor, and the sound of his throat-clearing preceded him like a war-cry‘.

I thought the characterisation was excellent and there is a great sense of location. The book is full of tension and there is a real sense of approaching danger and disaster as the characters struggle to uncover the truth. It is only due to Dr Fell’s ingenuity that their fears are calmed and he produces a rational explanation and reveals the truth. I too was puzzled and the book had kept me guessing right to the end. Even then when I knew what had happened I was so involved with the characters that  I was left wondering –  what happened next? 

Now, I’m keen to read more of John Dickson Carr’s books. There are a lot of them – see the list at Fantastic Fiction.

  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books in association with H.Hamilton (1953)
  • Source: I bought my copy
  • Rating: 4*

The Classics Club Spin Result

Classics Club

The spin number in The Classics Club Spin was announced yesterday. It’s number …

9

which for me is He Who Whispers by John Dickson Carr. The rules of the Spin are that this is the book for me to read by August 31, 2018.

img_20180801_192319728

My copy is a Golden Age Mystery, one of the Green Penguin Crime and Mystery series paperbacks, published in 1953 (first published in 1946). It features Dr Gideon Fell.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

At the edge of the woods by the river stands the tower. Once part of a chateau since burnt down, only the tower remains. The inside is but a shell with a stone staircase climbing spirally up the wall to a flat stone roof with a parapet.

One that parapet the body of Howard Brooke lay bleeding. The murderer, when Brooke’s back was turned, must have drawn the sword-cane from it sheath and run him through the body. And this must have occurred between ten minutes to four and five minutes past four, when the two children discovered him dying.

Yet the evidence showed conclusively that during this time not a living soul came near him.

I’m looking forward to reading He Who Whispers as I  haven’t read any of Carr’s books before and I’m really pleased one of the crime fiction novels I listed came up in the Spin.

Did you take part in the Classics Spin? What will you be reading?

Classics Club Spin

It’s time for another Classics Club Spin. The Club has four new moderators – Brona, Deb, Kay and Margaret (not me). And I’m pleased to see they are carrying on with the Classics Club Spin!

The Spin rules:

  •  List any twenty books you have left to read from your Classics Club list.
  • Number them from 1 to 20.
  • On Wednesday 1st August, the Club will post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List, by 31st August, 2018.

This is my list:

All Quiet on the Western FrontAppleby's EndBirdsongClouds of Witness: Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery…The Dancer at the Gai-Moulin (Maigret #10)

  1. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
  2. Appleby’s End by Michael Innes
  3. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
  4. Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L Sayers
  5. The Dancer at the Gai Moulin by Georges Simenon

Far From the Madding CrowdGreenmantle (Richard Hannay, #2)Gulliver's TravelsHe Who Whispers (Dr. Gideon Fell, #16)Love in the Time of Cholera

6. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
7. Greenmantle by John Buchan
8. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
9. He Who Whispers by John Dickson Carr
10.Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Man in the Queue (Inspector Alan Grant, #1)Oliver TwistParade's EndThe Return of the NativeThe Riddle of the Third Mile (Inspector Morse, #6)

11.The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey
12.Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
13.Parade’s End by Ford Maddox Ford
14.The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
15.The Riddle of the Third Mile by Colin Dexter

Ruling Passion (Dalziel & Pascoe, #3)The Shadow PuppetThe Saint-Fiacre Affair (Maigret, #13)Sweet ThursdayThree Men in a Boat (Three Men, #1)

16.Ruling Passion by Reginald Hill
17.The Shadow Puppet by Georges Simenon
18.The Saint- Fiacre Affair by Georges Simenon
19.Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
20.Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome

It shouldn’t matter which one comes up as I do want to read these books – but I’d like it to be one of the shorter books!

Classics Club Spin

The Classics ClubIt’s time for another Classics Club Spin. I feel rather guilty because although I did read my last Spin book, Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens, I still haven’t finished writing a post about it!

The Spin rules:

  •  List any twenty books you have left to read from your Classics Club list.
  • Number them from 1 to 20.
  • On Friday 9 March the Classics Club will announce a number.
  • This is the book to read by 30 April 2018.

This is my list:

Lorna DooneNicholas NicklebyLittle DorrittOliver TwistRomola

1) Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor by R D Blackmore

2) Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

3) Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

4) Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

5) Romola by George Eliot

 

BirdsongParade's EndMary BartonNorth and SouthFar from the Madding Crowd

6) Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

7) Parade’s End by Ford Maddox Ford

8) Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

9) North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

10) Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

The Return of the NativeThree Men in a BoatLove in the Time of CholeraOne Hundred Years of SolitudeAll Quiet on the Western Front

11) The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy

12) Three Man in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome

13) Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

14) One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

15) All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

East of EdenThe Grapes of WrathSweet ThursdayGulliver's TravelsFramley Parsonage (Chronicles of Barsetshire #4)

16) East of Eden by John Steinbeck

17) The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

18) Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck

19) Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

20) Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope

It shouldn’t matter which one comes up as I do want to read these books – but I’d like it to be one of Steinbeck’s books, or Birdsong.

Classics Club Spin

The Classics ClubIt’s time for another Classics Club Spin. I’ve been hoping we’d get another Spin in before the end of the year and here it is.

The Spin rules:

  •  List any twenty books you have left to read from your Classics Club list.
  • Number them from 1 to 20.
  • On Friday 17th November the Classics Club will announce a number.
  • This is the book to read by 31 December 2017.

This is my list:

  1. Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor by R D Blackmore
  2. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
  3. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
  4. Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens
  5. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  6. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
  7. Parade’s End by Ford Maddox Ford
  8. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
  9. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  10. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  11. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
  12. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome
  13. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  14. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  15. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
  16. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  17. Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
  18. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  19. Framley Parsonage (Barsetshire Chronicles, #4) by Anthony Trollope
  20. Orlando by Virginia Woolf

It shouldn’t matter which one comes up as I do want to read these books – but ideally at this time of year I’d like it to be one of the shorter books on this list.