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Summary

Exclusively from Audible

An espionage thriller that has been called the first great spy novel, it has sustained its popularity, being embraced by each new generation.

The first in a series of five audiobooks it features the spy Richard Hannay, an action hero with a stiff upper lip who gets caught up in a dangerous race against a plot by German spies to destroy the British war effort.

When Richard Hannay offers sanctuary to an American agent seeking his help in stopping a political assassination, he takes the first step on a trail of peril, murder, and espionage. Days later the agent's murdered body turns up in Hannay's flat, making him the prime suspect.

Knowing he's next he goes into hiding in Scotland, but in his possession is the American agent's little black book that holds the key to the conspiracy. On the run from both the police and members of a mysterious organisation that will stop at nothing to keep their secrets hidden, the book has become one of the most influential chase books, adopted by many, including Hollywood, but with an unrivalled tension.

The novel has been the basis for many adaptations although most have departed from the text. Most famous is Alfred Hitchcock's classic film The 39 Steps released in 1935.

Narrator Biography

Robert Powell received his first starring role in The Italian Job (1969) and is best known for the title role in the television series Jesus of Nazareth (1977). He received Best Actor awards for his performances in Imperativ (1982) and Harlequin (1980). His television career has included appearing in BBC One's Holby City (2005-2011) and the "science-fact" drama Doomwatch (1970) as well as starring alongside Jasper Carrott in the sitcom The Detectives (1993-1997). He has a distinctive voice that has narrated documentaries including World War II in HD Colour, Hitler's Bodyguard, The Story of the Third Reich and Secrets of World War II. In 2013 he narrated the dramatic television series The Bible. He has narrated many fictional and historical audiobooks including Rebecca's Tale, The Well-Beloved and The Thirty-Nine Steps.

Public Domain (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Harold
  • worksop, notts, United Kingdom
  • 10-06-08

Exiting thriller, with insights into a bygone era.

The language and certain phrases used can now appear a little old fashioned (even to someone in their late 50's!) but this does not detract from a cracking story, that is well read. If you enjoyed the Robert Donat film (1935) you will like this book, it is of a similar style and reflects attitudes and a period long since gone - servants, milk deliveries and many other examples. The recording, although unabridged, is short enough to be listened to in a couple of sittings which also adds to the pleasure. Recommended!

25 of 26 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Alan
  • Lamlash, United Kingdom
  • 23-02-09

Great to revisit

I first read this about 25 years ago, when I was in my teens. It was the recent TV version with Rupert Penry-Jones as Richard Hannay that inspired me to download and listen to the proper book again and I was very glad that I did. It evokes the era very well and is written in rather a literary style compared to more modern spy novelists and, for me, that added to the enjoyment of the tale. The narrator had the perfect accent for it.

I'm sure that most if not all of you who are reading this review will be familiar with the story. If you haven't read it, you really ought to, and if you have, this audio version is a great way of revisiting the novel. I finished listening to this whilst sitting in my living room with the coal fire burning and the lights dimmed and it was definitely a moment. Its length makes it easily digestible in a couple of sittings so it's a great choice for when your credits are starting to pile up after having had long audible listens for a couple of months.

17 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Mark
  • eastbourneUnited Kingdom
  • 21-01-09

the thirty nine steps

a ripping yarn taking you across britain from the centre of london to the highlands of scotland, the description of the innkeeper and the politician are a real delight and it leave you in suspense right to the very end

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

The Thirty-Nine Steps

I have seen all three films, but never actually read the book, so I was a little unsure of what I was getting for my money. However Robert Powell's narration is second to none. So good in fact I doubt I will ever wish to watch any of the films again.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Jonah
  • LondonUnited Kingdom
  • 24-06-09

Fabulous

I was transported into a world I didn't want to leave. Beautifully read.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant perfirnance

One of my favourite novels of the period. I can't imagine it being done better.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Ant
  • St Albans, United Kingdom
  • 15-12-13

Surprised by how much I enjoyed this!

I am a big fan of turn of the century novels of this type, the stories are usually far less important than the language used for me. It's like stepping back in time to a place when a man's character was written on his face: "He was a tall man with a poorly nourished moustache". There, that's everything you need to know about that blaggard.
The story itself is well crafted and well told. If you enjoy writing from this period in time, then I highly recommend this. As for the narrator - you can't go wrong with Robert Powell.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Sublime reading but with sound faults

Some may find this 1915-penned adventure yarn too dated and unbelievable, but I love Buchan's spare, tight writing style which drives the story along. Robert Powell brings just the right world-weary, risk-anything tone to the central character of Richard Hannay, the mining engineer who flees to Scotland after the murder in his flat of an English spy, only to be chased by both the police and murderous German spies. Powell is also completely convincing in his handling of the diverse characters that Hannay meets on his adventures, making for a wonderfully engaging audiobook.

Alas this Audible version has noticeable drops in volume for quite lengthy passages. I'd knock a star off for that, but Powell's reading is so terrific that I'll put up with the sound faults for the sheer pleasure of hearing this recording.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Old-fashioned daring do

This is a splendid recording of John Buchan's classic tale of pre-First World War daring do. Robert Powell narrates with verve and has an amazing range of accents, including some pretty good broad Scots. Some of the attitudes towards Jews and the "lower orders" make one cringe, but are a reminder of how prejudiced people could be. It may be old-fashioned, but it's a great yarn that keeps you listening.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent - a masterclass in writing.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

It is so much better than any of the distorted films made of the book.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Thirty-Nine Steps?

I would look for more by author and certainly look out for the narrator.

Have you listened to any of Robert Powell’s other performances? How does this one compare?

Excellent narrator.Does not intrude actor type over emphasis or irritating over dramatic performance. Id listen to him again anytime, reading the phone book if you like.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Stay true to the book.

Any additional comments?

As thrilling as I remember when I read it at school. Timeless. Accept the few non PC comments as a sign of the time it was written and be thankful that we've moved on.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Ian
  • 28-07-11

Way different to the movies

This is a classic adventure story of its day, very well read by Robert Powell. It is dated, but quite enjoyable still if you regard it as a period piece. I was expecting it to be very similar to the original Alfred Hitchcock movie made in England in 1935, but the movie only bears a superficial resemblance to the book. Even the significance of the '39 Steps' title is completely different between the book and movie. A good 'read' nevertheless.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Colin R.
  • 03-04-16

Brilliant Narration of a Classic!

Exceptional story telling of a well scripted novel. Evil is so poignantly described in that it is scarcely noticeable to the eye of the average onlooker. The protagonist doesn't miss a detail!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Cabby Flynn
  • 12-06-18

A horribly dated classic

This is one of the milestones in suspense, and, in particular, espionage fiction. But listen to it only if, like me, you're a student of this genre. The plot line is laughable -- one ludicrous coincidence after another. The rendition by William Powell is excellent.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • LadyM
  • 07-03-18

Sooo good!

A completely enthralling adventure mystery as Hannay is on the run from both the police and the Germans

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • No
  • 15-07-14

Buchan - maybe the father of this genre.

Would you listen to The Thirty-Nine Steps again? Why?

Yes. I like the story. I like the movie adaptations. It is a war story with enemy agents daring do and a good plot.

What other book might you compare The Thirty-Nine Steps to and why?

All of his books. I particularly liked this because there are no damsels in distress.

What aspect of Robert Powell’s performance would you have changed?

His voice is a little grating, flat, and slow at the same time. His reading didn't convey the excitement of the most, well, exciting parts.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

"The Thirty Nine Steps not an adaptation"

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • William M Storm
  • 11-10-12

International Intrigue

This narrative moves quickly, but it never seems that the events of the narrative are being pushed to further the action. Though the actions of three weeks are compressed into just four hours of story-telling, the story never feels rushed. While Richard Hannay is thrust into political intrigue, his history as a military officer and mining engineer allows him to engage with German operatives without being out of his element. Though perhaps the narrative allows him to escape too easily from capture or figure out connections a little too readily, this story is quite enjoyable and worth the time.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Raymond
  • 07-08-12

Exciting Adventure

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I'd recommend this book to a friend who likes an exciting plot and an excellent narrator.

What other book might you compare The Thirty-Nine Steps to and why?

I don't read many thrillers but I heard about this old one on a recent trip to Scotland.

Have you listened to any of Robert Powell’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No, never heard him before. Will look for him in the future.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes! I found myself wanting to get back to my listening.