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on 7 October 2013
The novel follows on from Richard Hannay's adventure uncovering a spy plot in The 39 steps. Richard is now an army Major and seasoned veteran in France in World War 1. Injured and consigned to blighty he recovers and receives a request to present himself at he War Office. He is surprised to find that this meeting is not to receive papers to rejoin his regiment but a request to undertake a special assignment on the eastern front.

This, unlike The 39 Steps, is a full length novel which grips the imagination of the reader in certain parts and is most enjoyable. The detail underpinning the story; the political framework; the knowledge of Turkish custom and army deployment demonstrates John Buchan's wide knowledge and experience in his own political life. However, in places the detail of the Battle of Looes and other parts of the plot, for instance, assumes that the reader already knows the background to the situation leaving the reader to half-guess the meaning of the paragraph. Nevertheless, Greenmantle is an excellent spy thriller with lots of action and adventure and probably warrants an airing on the big screen.
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on 28 September 2016
Re-reading Richard Hannay's adventures and didn't remember this one. A rattling good yarn with plenty of drama and adventure, but a little too much on his old African friend, Peter Pienaar, for my liking.

This has the same coincidental elements as the previous and much better book, The Thirty-Nine Steps, but with less of the charm.

The characters are a little stereotypical and a little too much of a cliche to my mind, but this is still entertaining adventure.
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on 3 July 2013
I found this to be great holiday reading. Having first read "The Thirty-nine Steps" years ago, I've been meaning to get round to the other Hannay novels for a long time. While some of the attitudes and language of the characters would definitely not be considered PC in this day and age, you have to but the book in the context of its time and accept it for what it is. In those days, you didn't question that the British Empire was anything but a good thing. Also, Buchan's treatment of characters from other ethnic backgrounds is often nuanced and sympathetic. The theme of an Islamic revival is very relevant today, and in that sense, the novel has stood the test of time.
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on 24 April 2014
This is a most interesting tale and typical, I suppose, of its type. Not only that but Buchan and his many thrillers surely inspired the whole spy and secret agent genre. Richard Hannay (the hero in this book as in The 39 Steps) is a sort of ultra-clean living paragon but a true forerunner of James Bond nonetheless. Both the story and the characters are improbable - no, they are impossible. And whenever Hannay and his companions find themselves in a tight hole a 'deus ex machina' arrives to rescue them; whenever they are separated they meet again by happy coincidence in some other country. The whole text is almost a parody of itself. Nevertheless it is easy to become hooked. It is for all its faults - and there are many for Buchan's social attitudes of a century ago leave a lot to be desired - a proper ripping yarn.
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on 4 July 2014
Very topical today: set in World War 1, with Islam being exploited by Germany/Turkey (via a supposed new Prophet) to distract the Allies (who were expected to rush off to the East to protect their colonial possessions and leave Europe to the Germans).
A good yarn, with action all over Europe and plenty of glimpses of life and attitudes 100 years ago. Some of the 'surprises' are either too surprising or not surprising enough, but you get carried along by the Boys' Own Paper heroism and general impudence.
It could make a grand movie in the James Bond / John Le Carre manner, though I doubt it would work as well as the book.
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on 5 September 2014
An engaging adventure story from the author of the better known '39 Steps'. The action sequences are well described but at times it feels a bit dated, perhaps not surprising as it was written 100 years ago. I found it difficult to understand why three reasonably intelligent men would go to Germany in search of a secret they had such little information about. The book also relies on several unlikely co-incidences and has a hero who would rather be in the trenches with his men (is he joking?!) For all this its still an enjoyable yarn.
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on 21 August 2015
This book has been digitised from its original form and expresses views on race and women that were contemporary in the 1930's.

If you are offended by the "N" word, 1930's views of Jews or do not feel that white males are in any way superior to the rest of society then please think twice before reading.

If you do read it, then there is a story line - it is "ok", but it does make you realise how ingrained intolerance was at that time and while we still have a long way to go, it is interesting to see how much most of us have moved on and gives an interesting insight to 1930's little England.
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on 8 October 2017
In its day this would be an acclaimed book. Now it feels dated, bizarre, pompous and shaming in its portrayal of people. The flow was muddled and laboured and altogether fantastical
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on 31 March 2016
John Buchan can always be guaranteed to tell a good yarn. I re-read it in connection with Peter Hopkirk's "On Secret Service East of Constantinople: The Great Game and the Great War". Remember this is a period piece; those of us of a certain vintage will enjoy it for nostalgia sake. It may also appeal to a younger generation as an example of daring do in a pre-atomic age.
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on 2 June 2014
John Buchan was a multi-talented, multi-functional almost polymathic man. 'Greenmantle' displays many of his phenomenal writing ability. To enjoy the book completely I think you have to suspend any knowledge you have of modern thrillers or how they are constructed. Some of his attempts to use the 'with-it' language of 100 years ago may sound slightly odd to modern ears - not just archaic - but it is worth the effort to carry on regardless and there is not much of it anyway. There is no bad language nor gratuitous sex scenes in it, which is a terrific relief. The ultimate background of the pre Russian Revolution Turkish front of 1915/16 is perhaps not one which many in the west are familiar with or even aware of - and for that reason alone, whether or not the background is historically accurate (and the reviewer simply does not know), should be on the reading list of anyone interested in WW1 outside of the bloodsoaked trenches of France.
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