Charles Carruthers is languishing in the crushing heat of a London summer when an old university chum named Davies throws him a lifeline, inviting him on a yachting expedition in the North Sea. It sounds like a lark, but Carruthers finds that the Dulcibella is hardly a yacht, and Davies’s trip is no pleasure cruise. Off the coast of the mysterious Frisian Islands, he has spotted a German fleet, supposedly engaged in hunting for buried treasure. Battling the elements, the two Englishmen find themselves surrounded by the German navy, which is using the fogs of the North Sea to disguise something monstrous—the Kaiser’s plot to launch a sneak attack on the British Isles.
Published more than a decade before World War I began, this groundbreaking spy novel inspired a young Winston Churchill to reinvigorate Britain’s naval defenses, and it remains just as stirring today.
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It is a novel that "owes a lot to the wonderful adventure novels of writers like Rider Haggard, that were a staple of Victorian Britain"; perhaps more significantly, it was a spy novel that "established a formula that included a mass of verifiable detail, which gave authenticity to the story – the same ploy that would be used so well by John Buchan, Ian Fleming, John le Carré and many others." Ken Follett called it "the first modern thriller."
The perennial classic. Arguably the first spy novel ever written remains one of the finest examples of the genre to this day.
While on a duck-hunting holiday sailing in the Frisian Isles, Carruthers and his friend Davies become suspicious of German naval activity off the North Sea Coast. The pair decide to investigate, and are soon embroiled in a world of suspense and intrigue, and the pair set about foiling nothing less than a plot to invade England.
Initially published in 1903, The Riddle of the Sands proved a prescient vision of the Anglo-German conflict that was to culminate in the First World War. This thrilling adventure is now regarded as the first - and one of the best - spy novels ever written, inspiring later masters of the genre from John Buchan to John le Carre.
Two young Englishmen, Davies and Carruthers, head for the Baltic Sea in the late 1890s for a holiday of sailing and duck-shooting. The mood gradually darkens as Davies discloses his suspicions of espionage in the North Frisian Islands, and Carruthers joins in an investigation that develops into a series of increasingly dangerous intrigues. Norman Donaldson, an expert on detective and suspense fiction, offers an Introduction with details about the author as well as the novel's background and its place in the history of the spy-novel genre.
Published in 1903, The Riddle of the Sands is considered the first modern spy novel.