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It is the first of five novels featuring Richard Hannay, an all-action hero with a stiff upper lip and a miraculous knack for getting himself out of sticky situations.
The novel is set during May and June 1914; Europe is close to war and spies are everywhere. Richard Hannay has just returned to London from Rhodesia in order to begin a new life, when a freelance spy called Franklin P. Scudder calls on him to ask for help. Scudder reveals to Hannay that he has uncovered a German plot to murder the Greek Premier and steal British plans for the outbreak of war.
Scudder claims to be following a ring of German spies called the Black Stone. John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir (1875–1940) was a Scottish novelist and historian.