John Buchan’s classic novel, The Thirty-Nine Steps, takes place in the summer of 1914, weeks before the Great War breaks out. Richard Hannay, who made his fortune in South Africa, is bored of London. When his neighbor is murdered after disclosing a spy plot to him, Hannay is forced to go on the run to avoid being arrested by the police or killed by the spies. He spends much of the book hiding out in rural Scotland, before returning to London.
This proto-thriller—or “shocker” as Buchan called it—is still an entertaining story.