The Power House by John Buchan

It’s week one of the year and what with having been behind schedule with War and Peace I was a wee bit worried that I wouldn’t be able to complete a book from my 2011 Reading List, but I managed. Well it helped that I chose a really short book to read, The Power House is just 130 pages long. First published in 1916 this is another of the many thrillers that John Buchan seems to have written for relaxation purposes and a bit of a hobby, given that he had a very high-flying career as a diplomat and ended up being given a baronetcy.

The story is set in London and Mr Leithen (I don’t think we ever find out his first name) is a Member of Parliament. He was elected in a by-election in which he was supposed to be a forlorn hope and he is still working as a criminal lawyer part-time. Leithen discovers that one of his old friends, Pitt-Heron who happens to be very wealthy, has got mixed up with a lot of strange foreign people and what had been the billiard room in his house has been turned into a laboratory.

When Pitt-Heron bolts suddenly with a large amount of gold which he has taken from his bank, his wife Ethel is at her wits’ end and Leithen and his friend Tommy try to track her husband down for her.

Buchan obviously had a thing about being hunted down because so far every book of his which I’ve read has involved a man-hunt. This one has Leithen being chased across London with people at every turn intent on grabbing him with a view to ‘doing him in’.

This book wasn’t nearly as good as Greenmantle or even The Thirty-Nine Steps, Huntingtower, or Salute to Adventurers but it’s still worthwhile reading if you’re into classic thrillers.

John Buchan
was yet another local lad, having been brought up in Kirkcaldy where his father was a minister in a church near where I live. After leaving school he went to The University of Glasgow to study Classics and went from there to Oxford.

He had a very distinguished career and became Governor General of Canada in 1935. Topically, considering that the film The King’s Speech is just about to be released, John Buchan told the British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and Buckingham Palace that the people of Canada would be outraged if Edward VIII married Wallis Simpson.

He was given a baronetcy in 1935 and became Lord Tweedsmuir.

I’m running out of Buchan books to read, the only one I have unread is Witch Wood.