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3.9 out of 5 stars188
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 26 August 2011
This e-version, unlike some others, has a linked table of contents which greatly aids navigation. It also has the charts missing from another e-version I have reviewed. The charts are not linked in the table of contents but you can find them after 'acknowledgements' then bookmark them so that you can easily refer to them while reading the text.The Riddle of the Sands: A Record of Secret Service
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on 27 November 2007
I love this book, I've read and re-read it again and again and still get something new out of it each time. The prose style is very much of its time and takes getting used to for a modern reader. Having struggled initially, I now think it's so well written, not as fast-paced as a modern story might be and all the better for it - the clarity and depth of the descriptions strike a balance between the needs of a first-time reader reading for the narrative and the boat-obsessed reader who already knows the story but wants to work out exactly what the tide is doing... I loved it before getting involved in small boats and now that I've become a boat obsessive myself, I like it even more.
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on 19 September 2000
Set in the period before the First World War, this gripping story tells of the adventures of a yachtsman and his non-sailing friend as they uncover disturbing events in the eastern North Sea in a small boat.
For sailors and non-sailors alike, this is a classic spy novel where the protagonists' curiosity and sense of adventure combine with sinister military planning in the misty waters around the Frisian islands. If you enjoy historical novels, this is a great read.
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on 23 October 2007
This has long been a favourite of mine, and the wonderful new Penguin edition is an absolute must have for admirers old and new.

A wonderful spy novel that should grip thriller fans as well as any amateur seafarer. The Riddle Of The Sands deserves the term classic.

The movie too made in the late 70s is also worth watching.
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on 27 October 2003
This novel, the first ever spy story, is truly of it's era. The story's heroes may seem quaint by the standards of the 21st Century (it is interesting to observe the manners between foes!!)but Childer's novel accurately predicted that Britain's main threat at the turn of the 20th Century was Germany rather than the more traditional foe of France. Consequently, this book caused shock waves in England and Childers even received the wrath of Winston Churchill such was it's radical prediction. Whilst no invasion via the Frisian Islands materialised, it is allged that this book prompted the navy to develop it's base at Scarpa Flow. Clearly this book was explosive stuff one hundred years ago!
The story concerns two men who uncover the covert plans of the German navy whilst under the pretext of hunting for duck. Whilst the first half of the book concerns itself with aspects of sailing and builds up a tremendous atmosphere that evokes the period and bleakness of the coast of Germany, the pace accelerates as the incredible truth eventually becomes apparent...
Having re-visited this book over and over again, for me it represents my defining image of the twilight of the British Empire. This is a must for all lovers of well -written spy and adventure stories.
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on 13 June 2012
The little Collector's Library volumes are of beautiful quality, with fine paper and sewn bindings - and now offer a perfect alternative to the bigger Everyman's editions when you want a permanent copy.

This is a fairly disappointing volume in the series, however, because of the clumsy and simplified redrawing of some of the maps. The original book included facsimiles of Admiralty charts, and particularly important were the close-scale ones of the Frisian coast. In no other work of fiction are the maps so important: they are genuinely characters in the novel in themselves, something much more than just 'local colour'. This is after all a story of yachting and spying out a mysterious landscape, and the heroes spend a lot of time puzzling over and discussing these same charts (not in a way that slows down the story, I should add!). There is little in them that is actually redundant to the text.

There must be other reprints around that do a better job of the maps, surely!
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on 10 June 2012
is a novel that doesn't get much of a read nowadays. Quite a few First World War books appear at first sight to be a bit dated because a) the SECOND World War came along (obviously) and b)the style in which they're written belongs to a much more jingoistic, "my country, right or wrong" public mood than we're used to these days. Nonetheless, Riddle of the Sands is still a good story. Among the sailing fraternity I'd imagine it sits on a bookshelf between The Bible and the Admiralty Charts. If you already know a bit about seamanship you'll get a lot out of it right from the start; if you don't then you'll be surprised how much you'll passively learn.
This was actually the first e-book I'd ordered that I read on a BlackBerry rather than on a Kindle. Bit of a difference, too. By the time you've increased the font size to make the print acceptable you're turning pages every couple of seconds. Something like two and a half thousand thousand pages in the whole book! The paper version is probably only three hundred and fifty; the Kindle about the same.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 November 2011
Several years after The Riddle of the Sands was first published and became a bestseller, one of the first British spy cases came before the German courts - the so-called Brandon-Trench affair, named after the two Britons (correctly) convicted of spying. During the court case one of the lawyers held up a copy of The Riddle of the Sands and asked the accused spies if they had read it, for they were accused of being bungling gentleman spies sniffing around the very locations such as Nodeney and Wangerooge that feature heavily in The Riddle of the Sands, which also features two British gentlemen turned spies. However, whilst Brandon and Trench were convicted (one admitted to hearing of the book, the other to liking it so much they read it three times), the heroes of The Riddle of the Sands were successful, unearthing a secret anti-British German plot.

In the decades after its publication two wars took place between Britain and Germany, both heavily featuring action at sea and invasion scares, so making the book seem eerily prescient. It also earned its place in literary history as the first modern espionage novel - there is action in the book, but it is principally about unravelling a mystery.

In other respects the passage of time has treated the book less well - from the racism in the opening sentence through to the two main (male) characters and their attitude towards women and talking about women (though in fairness it is both the writing style and the attitude towards women which has dated so badly). Moreover, so many subsequent espionage books have appeared and the genre developed so much that this original work is rather overshadowed by its successors save for having been the first. There is little in the book that has not been done many, many times since - although the author shows a rare skill in getting the balance of nautical detail right: enough to give the book a real maritime flavour but not so much as to completely befuddle the landlubber reader.

The book's intent was similar to that of more modern military fictions, such as The Third World War, August 1985: a Future History - to spur politicians into actions to strengthen the country's defences. It was not the only piece of fiction so intended but whilst William Le Queux's works may have had more contemporary political impact, especially in spy scares (and aided by the Daily Mail serialisations steering the German invasion through locations with the highest Daily Mail sales), Erskine Childers's The Riddle of the Sands has retained the higher literary reputation for it is still an enjoyable read.
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on 2 August 2007
A magnificent read! The language takes some time to get used to, but that was to be expected from a book that is over 100 years old. It's a great thriller and I found it difficult to put down.
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on 12 April 2006
This is a beautiful book, I loved every second, have read it cover to cover many times. The story brilliantly captures the nervousness of the period leading up to the Great War. The atmosphere is amazing, you can almost see the cold windswept dunes of the German coast. The tension builds fast to the climax and the ambiguous ending just leaves you wishing that there was more.
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