Thommy Ford Reads

A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library

Free eBook Review: The Riddle of the Sands (1903) by Erskine Childers

Looking for some free books to fill your eReader?  You may already know that there are plenty of classics available as free downloadable eBooks, but if you explore enough you’ll find some free titles you might not expect: forgotten bestsellers, early genre classics, pulp fiction and more.  Here’s a free title that has caught my attention lately, with links to the download below.

Carruthers is a young, ambitious clerk in the British Foreign Office who has sacrificed his entire summer to further his career. Abandoned to a stuffy London August while his friends are off enjoying trips to the continent, he finds himself bored beyond endurance. That is, until a very suspicious invitation arrives from Denmark. Why would an old school chum like Davies invite him to do some yachting in the Baltic? Is the Baltic even a likely end of summer vacation spot? And why such an elaborate list of nautical supplies to bring along? Before he knows it Carruthers’ curiosity gets the better of him, and he is whisked off to a world of adventure and international espionage.

Erskine Childers (1870-1922)

Erskine Childers’ Riddle of the Sands is often considered one of the earliest examples of a spy novel or political thriller.  The book is nearly110 years old, and a century of imitators–from The Thirty-Nine Steps to Hunt for Red October–might ruin some of the surprises that would have been in store for us in 1903, but there’s still something fresh about Childers’ approach.  Particularly compelling is the wide-eyed innocence of his protagonists, Carruthers and Davies.  They find themselves trying to stop an armada of battleships with just a single yacht, and yet treat the entire excursion like some kind of wild vacation.  Childers also adds an abundance of accurate nautical details including maps and charts that, if you’re into sailing or, like me, a landlubber who’s just fascinated by the lingo, gives the book’s far-fetched plot an interesting layer of reality.

If you’re interested in the roots of today’s bestselling thrillers, or just want an exciting adventure yarn set on the high seas, give The Riddle of the Sands a chance–you won’t be disappointed.

Available for Kindle, Nook (ePub), and just about every other eBook format from Project Gutenberg.

Review by Matthew

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This entry was posted on May 29, 2012 by in Adventure, Book Review, eBook, Fiction, Free eBook Reviews, Suspense.
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