The Riddle of the Sands: A Record of Secret Service by Irish author Erskine Childers is often described as the first modern thirller and was one of the first popular spy novels.
Published in 1903 novel it spearheaded a genre and influenced the great espionage writers John Buchan, Ian Fleming, John le Carre and many others.
The plot involves the uncovering of secret German preparations for an invasion of the United Kingdom and is sited by Winston Churchill as one of the major reasons the Admiralty decided to establish naval bases at Invergordon, the Firth of Forth and Scapa Flow.
Robert Erskine Childers (1870 - 1922) was an Irish nationalist. Son of British Orientalist scholar Robert Caesar Childers; the cousin of Hugh Childers and Robert Barton; and the father of the fourth President of Ireland, Erskine Hamilton Childers.
Please note: This is a vintage recording. The audio quality may not be up to modern day standards.
Tops. Hagan's reading, which I believe was originally made for the Royal National Institute of Blind People, is masterful. All of Childers' sometimes intricate prose is brought amazingly to life. And the story is just great, particularly if you have ever sailed a small boat. Pure pleasure.
The Riddle of the Sands has a reputation as an exciting spy story, but there was nothing exciting about this reading. I felt like I was enduring, rather than enjoying this book.
"Vintage derring-do in a small boat!"
This is an old fashioned novel read in an old fashioned way. It’s actually an RNIB publication, so I presume it’s read by a volunteer - most of their talking books were. So the style is different from the professional narrators us committed Audible users are accustomed to, and to be fair to Audible, there is a note on the description saying this is a “vintage recording”.
Anyhow - this is a tale of quiet derring do, probably enjoyed most by sailors as it takes place mostly on a small yacht in German coastal waters, and especially by those who’ve sailed in those very waters. It isn’t a fast, pacy book with lots of action - it was written in 1903, and books took their time then. There are two heroes, a sailor and his non-sailing friend, who are on a late season holiday sailing the Frisian coast. But their suspicions are raised by military goings on, (this is pre-First World War, and at a time when Germany was building up its military might), so they set out to investigate… It's written contempraneously, so is an interesting snapshot of life in 1903.
I settled into the narration and enjoyed this. Yes it takes its time to get to various points, but I had no trouble staying with it to the end, and am about to dispatch hubby off for a week’s solo sailing with this!
the production and reading
the classic story is significantly diminished by the performance - this version should be retired
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