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The Three Hostages

(Richard Hannay #4)

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  954 ratings  ·  81 reviews
Following the end of the First World War Richard Hannay, the hero of John Buchan's The Thirty-Nine Steps, Greenmantle and Mr Standfast, has retired to the Cotswolds with his wife and young son. There, news comes to him of three kidnappings and a plot of political and financial magnitude that would shake the world. Hannay abandons his Gloucestershire idyll to counter the th ...more
Paperback, 255 pages
Published April 1st 1995 by Wordsworth Editions (first published January 1st 1924)
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Average rating 3.82  · 
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Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
The 4th Hannay novel; this one isn't as relentlessly fast paced as its predecessors. There are several chapters with a domesticated post-war Hannay steadfastly refusing to be drawn into a new caper but 'methinks the lady doth protest too much' and he's soon drawn in. It bothers me a bit that Hannay and wife join in only because the third hostage is a little boy like their own son; thy're oddly callous about the plight of the a young man and woman in the hands of what is described as a most dasta ...more
The Three Hostages is the 4th book in the Richard Hannay adventure / thriller series by John Buchan. It was originally published in 1924. I've read the complete series now and, maybe because it's the freshest in my mind, I think it was the best book in the series.

Hannay is living on his estate in the country in western Britain with his wife Mary and his young son Peter John. He is now trying to move on from his WWI experiences, to enjoy a retirement, but he is brought back to reality when he is
Jun 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the fourth book in the series and my favorite so far. The war is over and Hannay is trying to relax in the country when he is approached about three possibly related kidnappings. Several comrades of past adventures are also involved.
In The Three Hostages, John Buchan puts into the mouth of one of the characters (Dr. Greenslade) what was very likely his own recipe for creating his adventure stories (or what he termed his ‘shockers’).

“Look here. I want to write a shocker, so I begin by fixing on one or two facts which have no sort of connection… You invent a connection – simple enough if you have any imagination – and you weave all three into a yarn. The reader, who knows nothing about the three at the start, is puzzled and i
Julie Davis
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
2nd reading - I'm listening to the Peter Joyce narration which is good. I remember enough about the book to know who the villain is. As Hannay meets him for lunch (without having figured out he's the villain) I was feeling very worried that he will unknowingly spill the beans with details about the clues they've learned about the kidnappings. I thought that was because I'd read the book before. Nope. I see from my review below that I'm just under John Buchan's spell in this very thrilling tale. ...more
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Imagining Hitchcock's Robert Donat imbuing (Sir) Richard Hannay with his special charm can't redeem much of the datedness of this. And even allowing for the attitudes of the time, the views toward blacks, Jews and swarthy others on offer here are generally rather deplorable. Could get past all of this if it weren't for a plot that is rife with coincidence and chance well beyond what seems plausible, even for a thriller of this nature. There is also quite a lot of hokum about phrenology and hypno ...more
John Frankham
Dec 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This wonderful, fourth in the series, Sir Richard Hannay adventure, sees Hannay, ex-General and under-cover agent in WWI, now 42, dragged from his wife, child, and Cotswold farming existence, back into harness to help the rescue of three young hostages, taken so that the villain can, as well as furthering his craze for crime and stopping his activities being investigated, obtain complete mental control over his acolytes.

Well-written, witty and exciting, it shows again Buchan's great narrative an
While a few aspects of this 4th installment in the Richard Hannay series show their age (this was first published in 1924), most of it is surprisingly still relevant. The use of propaganda to get fanatics or troubled youngsters to stir up trouble is something we can see today.

The only thing that bothered me is the abruptness of the ending. I would have liked one or two more pages although in reality, there was nothing more that needed to be said.
Sally Ewan
Jun 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I found a paperback copy of this at a recent library sale. While switching back and forth between several non-fiction titles, I decided to start this yesterday afternoon. I couldn't put it down! Buchan knows how to keep the reader on the edge of his seat as he reveals clues and as Hannay uses his wit and nerve to face down villains. I don't like regular 'detective' novels, but this book was a pure delight.

I was struck by the unwritten code of honor inherent in this book, one that has completely
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: serious Buchan aficionados
Back in 2014 I rated this with three stars because, even for Buchan, it had so many bizarre riddles, coincidences, masquerades and an Iago-like motiveless malignity villain. Having just re-read it, I won't advance the book to four stars, but I appreciate it more and indulge in the whimsy. If you are new to Buchan do not begin with this one, but don't disdain to read it if you come to like Buchan's work as I do. It's fun in the grand context. ...more
Aug 23, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Entirely preposterous and the views in it are so bizarre and antiquated. Enjoyable twaddle.
Nov 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book can be got for very cheap since it is out of copyright in some places. Amazing book, it's great to get back to classic Buchan. The author has really become used to his characters and they fill the book with their various personalities (for all his silly imperialism). This one has Richard Hanney at his most un-hypnotisable, chasing round men of such strong will they intoxicate others with their presence. He doesn't actually get out into the country much in this one, and not at all to Sc ...more
Sep 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A stirring conclusion to Buchan's seminal spy novels, "The Three Hostages" finds Sir Richard Hannay comfortably settled with his wife Mary (from "Greenmantle") and their young son on a farm in the Cotswolds, only to be drawn against his will into another adventure. This time, the struggle is not against an enemy nation, but against a vast criminal enterprise led by a genius every bit the equal of Sherlock Holmes' Moriarty. As always, Hannay wins in the end, but the journey is mostly tightly-pace ...more
Marts  (Thinker)
Another Hannay adventure. This one goes a bit slow at first and ever so often throughout the narrative... The ending (or just the entire final chapter), after being overly descriptive ends quite suddenly, but the plot is generally a good one...
Syd Logsdon
Now the war is over and Hannay, with his wife and son, have settled in to a life of peace. It is not to last. Three hostages have been taken from three of England’s leaders, and the ransom is their support of a program destructive to England. Hannay, against his inclinations, enters the search for the hostages. Much of the story is a series of chases, following various clues, during which Hannay is once again forced to work against the ordinary police to maintain his secrecy. Even when he finds ...more
Sean O'Reilly
Apr 04, 2013 rated it liked it
On the whole this is a fairly typical Richard Hannay adventure. There is a convoluted plot concocted by an obscure villain; death defying chases across rugged countryside; a cast of supporting charcaters, some of whom will be familiar to readers of other Hannay adventures; and, inevitably, a successful conclusion.

As with other books by John Buchan there is an element of casual racism which rears it's head from time to time, which some readers will find difficult to accept. Personally I look at i
Dec 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another fantastic book in John Buchan's Richard Hannay series. This one has Hannay searching out three hostages that were taken captive by Dominik Medina, a man who believes he has the power of hypnosis and plans to use it to put himself into highest leadership. The story starts off fairly slow, but by the last several chapters, it's nearly non-stop action. Overall, a very fantastic read, as if you could expect any less from Buchan. ...more
Oct 25, 2009 rated it it was ok
A, now Sir, Richard Hannay adventure but one more cerebral than his suspenseful, exciting The Thirty Nine Steps. As such the suspense is more drawn out and the best excitement comes towards the end when Hannay and his opponent face each other in the Scottish hills.
Jan 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
John Buchan wrote so well and his hero, Richard Hannay, a quintessential Englishman, is brave and clever although he doesn't see himself as such. This was a tension-filled and exciting story, set in the 1920s and Hannay is now married with a young son. Very entertaining. ...more
review of
John Buchan's The Three Hostages
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 13, 2019

I got this bk, used, b/c the jacket informed me that the author had also written The Thirty-Nine Steps. I've never read that but I enjoyed the Alfred Hitchcock movie based on it so I wanted to read something by Buchan. I've used snippets of the Hitchcock movie in my movie entitled The 26 Mmmms: . A further enticement for buying this bk was that it's a paperback-sized hardback.

I w
Todd Stockslager
Mar 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Review title: Richard Hannay riddles

In the Fourth Hannay novel (see my reviews of The Thirty-nine Steps and Greenmantle) the intrepid hero of the first World War has married, become a father, and retired to a countryside estate to live the quite live of a landed gentryman. Slim chance of that--an old wartime acquaintance in Scotland Yard sends Hannay an urgent telegram telling if three kidnappings linked as near as the police can tell only by six lines of a poem. At first refusing the case as co
Nov 26, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, anglophilia
The author of the foreword said it best : the intended audience for this book was the Eton schoolboy of the 1920s. The book is a product of its time, with all the jingoism, racism, antisemitism, sexism etcetera that one would expect. The worldview is that of the landed, conservative English gentleman, who fought in the Great War and is now worried that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. Communist agitators! Mysterious villains manipulating global economics and policies, destabilizing th ...more
Annabel Frazer
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my favourite of the Buchan thrillers - partly, these days, because being set in Britain with an almost entirely British cast, it manages to avoid the casual racism which makes so many other Buchans these days difficult to read. But more because in my view, it has a more ingenious plot with real puzzles satisfyingly resolved than, say, The Thirty-Nine Steps (which depends on a lot of running around and some extraordinary coincidences, plus an absolutely cracking title). It also has, again ...more
Daniel Mallon
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Reader beware:

This is very much of it's time and the casual racism that was perfectly normal then is extremely offensive now. Only read this is you are prepared for that and aren't going to be overly upset by the norms of a different age.

That said it's a ripping yarn whose plot could easily transfer to a James Bond movie. Post First World War a multi national plot is discovered which Richard Hannay is brought out of self imposed retirement to solve.
Michael P.
May 13, 2020 marked it as books-abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Forced myself to read to page 48 despite some dodgy writing until I got to the scene where the protagonist accidentally breaks his pipe with the result that something his friend has been trying to remember comes back to him because the pipe broke. Given this hoariest of clichés, the occasional bits of bad writing, and how bad one of Buchan's previous books had been, I decided to waste no more of my time on this one. ...more
Oct 03, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Much like most books published by white men in the 1920s this book oozes with casual racism. Putting aside the normalized racism in that time period, as a spy story I didn’t find this particularly compelling. If anything, I found the critical historical reading for this book (read for my graduate course) far more engaging than the book itself.
Oct 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this one - there's enough intrigue to make it excting, but enough realism to make you believe the story. However, it's very much a product of it's time in terms of the racism and orientalism, the 'us' vs. 'them', and the idea of the other. I'd definitely read more Buchan from my experience of this novel. ...more
Jeremy Hollingshead
I wasn't sure how well Richard Hannay could carry past WWI, but Buchan delivered another good read. However the book was too long. The fact that the last few chapters even existed, let alone their content, was absurd. If the book had been tighter it would have been my favorite Richard Hannay. However, Greenmantle is still number one for me. ...more
Larry Piper
A more-or-less standard Richard Hanay thriller. Someone has kidnapped three young people related to high government officials. They also seem to have a hold on some sensitive documents. There appears to be some kind of clue embedded in a poem. Hanay and his cronies work round the clock, and travel all over the place, eventually saving the day.
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John Buchan (1st Baron Tweedsmuir) was a Scottish novelist and public servant who combined a successful career as an author of thrillers, historical novels, histories and biographies with a parallel career in public life. At the time of his death he was Governor-General of Canada.

Buchan was educated at Glasgow and Oxford Universities. After a brief career in law he went to South Africa in 1902 wh

Other books in the series

Richard Hannay (5 books)
  • The 39 Steps (Richard Hannay, #1)
  • Greenmantle (Richard Hannay #2)
  • Mr. Standfast
  • The Island of Sheep (Richard Hannay #5)

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