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Publisher's 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
  • Ian
  • Newcastle, Australia
  • 07-28-11

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.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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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!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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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"

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  • Performance
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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.

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  • Raymond
  • Lebanon, CT, United States
  • 08-07-12

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.

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  • Overall
  • Harold
  • 06-10-08

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!

24 of 25 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Alan
  • 02-23-09

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.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • 01-21-09

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

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  • Mrs. Rm Walters
  • 04-07-10

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

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  • Jonah
  • 06-24-09

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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  • Dominic Gill
  • 02-14-15

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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  • Ant
  • 12-15-13

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

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  • Knucklebones
  • 07-23-11

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
  • Kirstine
  • 07-18-09

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.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Stafford Steve
  • 10-07-10

Forget Hitchcock return to Buchan

There have been many movies, of varying quality, and at least two dramatised radio versions, probably better than any screen adaptations, but this audio-book takes us back to the original and still the best version, where 39 steps really do mean 39 steps, and the menace of German agents in the years up to the outbreak of war is palpable. No playing around with deep cover master spies with missing fingers; here the German mastermind is not only a master chameleon but one who can hood his eyes as only an agent of the Kaiser could ever do. Listen to the our hero's rapid disgust with Edwardian London, watch in your mind's eye as he thinks on the hoof, whether trying to get away from the murder scene unnoticed or trying to get as far away as possible by train lines and drover roads over the Galloway hills. A tale of daring do, this remains all the more exciting as our hero is making it up as he goes along, his experiences in Africa providing far less in the way of survival skills than we might expect. His dealings with road menders, inn keepers, and cads of the highest order demonstrate his honest ordinariness. At every turn his desire not just to survive but to find out what the Germans are trying to do that is so important they will do almost anything to capture him keeps the listener engaged. Though these times may be almost a hundred years ago, this is still a modern world of railways and telephones, and more particularly of short-sighted xenophobia that ignores the real threats to Britain and its way of life, all of which retains a certain currency even today. So, listen to this original version, particularly if you have little interest in music hall memory men, preferring your 39 Steps to be about spies thwarted at the very last by an ordinary person cast up amidst extraordinary times. It's almost as good as Geoffrey Household's more intense Rogue Male, another loner on the run from German agents 25 year later.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • dave
  • 07-16-16

The thirty-nine steps

Classic thriller.
Good story, well written, believable.
Attitudes of the characters are sometimes strange to current ears and are obviously a reflection of the time wherein the story is set but apart from these it is still one of the best in the genre.
Robert Powell is an excellent and talented interpreter of the story

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Melissa
  • 01-05-17

I've seen the play

Everyone has seen the play but probably haven't read the book. Well I like to sound interesting with my knowledge of literature so thought I'd get this one out of the way.
It's actually quite funny. It's pretty cheap so just buy it so you can sound educated.