The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers
One of the first and still one of the finest spy stories ever written, Erskine Childers' book introduced Edwardian readers to the idea of a 'secret service'. In an enthralling tale of a duel among the islands and sandbanks of the North Sea, two amateur investigators and yachtsmen discover sinister preparations off the German coast. At great peril both from an implacable enemy and furious storms at sea, they stake their lives on the strength of their doughty boat, the Dulcibella. Will they fight their way back to England in time to sound a warning? The Riddle of the Sands caused a sensation when it appeared in 1903, with statesmen and soldiers drawn into a debate about Britain's readiness to repulse a naval invasion. So strong was its impact that one critic later accused its author of almost single-handedly starting a European war. But its influence would not have been so great if it had not been so powerfully readable, a quality it keeps to this day. Ranked with the greatest work of John Buchan, Joseph Conrad and Ian Fleming, this vintage adventure has lost none of its force.