The author wrote this now classic book intending it to be in the genre he called “a shocker.” Today we’d call it a thriller. You could call it a murder mystery, but really it’s more of a pursuit book, in the same category as the popular TV show The Fugitive or the Australian TV series Wanted. The main character is an innocent man who finds himself in an unlucky circumstance leading to the police pursuing him for murder and at the same time the bad guys out to kill him for what he may have learned from the victim.
It takes place in England and Scotland in the time just before World War I. The appeal it may have had to readers back then has been superseded by a nostalgia of sorts today’s readers will experience for a time when life was simpler, more direct, and devoid of the kind of political correctness we have today. There are lots of descriptions of the Scottish countryside and inhabitants that will make modern readers gape in surprise or yearn to see first-hand. The plot is quite implausible, but full of suspense and action. It was made into a very successful movie by Alfred Hitchcock and subsequently by several other directors. One of my five stars can be chalked up to that nostalgia, so it may be more of a four star book, but I enjoyed it greatly.