Review: The Riddle of the Sands, Erskine Childers

FiveBooks! What? How could you let me down like this? The Riddle of the Sands was supposed to be one of the five best books in all the land on the Secret Service. Uncool! I just thought it was going to be so excited, nonstop intrigue and deception, culminating in some sort of thrilling climax where all the previously-introduced thrilling spy elements would come together in for an astounding finish. Like the sort of thing H. Rider Haggard would do, if H. Rider Haggard wrote spy novels. Why was it not like that?

The premise promised good things: Our protagonist, Carruthers, receives a letter from an old school acquaintance, Davies, asking Carruthers to join him on a yachting expedition. Carruthers is bored in London, as it’s the off-season and everyone is out of town, so he goes out to meet Davies. But instead of a quiet yachting expedition, he finds himself enmeshed (I am making this sound so much awesomer than it is) in a wicked plot with Germans and a British titled gentry person and a girl. None of this is spoilers. Childers says all of this in the little preface where he’s pretending like the whole story is true. I got so excited when I was reading the preface. I was practically shaking, that’s how excited I was to read this stupid book.

And then oh my God, it was twenty thousand pages of boat stuff, and the guys talking about boats, and boat stuff, and look, I would love to go to sea in a boat. I’m on board (ha, ha, ha) with a boat book. But it just went on and on, boating and boating and boating up and down the European coasts, and no German spies anywhere in sight, for so long. The forbidden love plotline was soooo underdone. Nobody murmured sweet nothings into each other’s ears. Nobody twirled his mustache. Nobody discovered the truth at a crucial moment and then got discovered by the bad guys before he could get back to the boat and report things to his cohorts. Nobody dissolved into a pile of ashes in a scene so shocking that the onlookers perished of fright. Surely at least one of those things should have happened.

Why I read the end: I almost didn’t. That’s how much I didn’t care. I read the end to find out when the awesome stuff was going to start happening. Spoiler alert: No awesome stuff ever happened.

Basically, I needed The Riddle of the Sands to be She with German spies, and it wasn’t. Bah.

Help me, y’all. If I wanted a good spy novel, a classic spy novel that would grab me and I wouldn’t be able to put it down until I read every word, where would I go for that?