Synopses & Reviews
Carruthers is summoned to the Baltic by his friend, an accomplished yachtsman, who reveals his suspicions concerning German activity in the North Frisian Islands.
About the Author
Milt Bearden was chief of the CIAs Soviet/East European division at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union. He received the Donovan Award and the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the CIAs highest honor, and is the author of The Black Tulip (available from Random House Trade Paperbacks) and co-author of The Main Enemy (published in 2003 by Random House).
Reading Group Guide
1. 1. Erskine Childers wrote this novel as a warning to England to look to their North Sea defenses (and it worked, inspiring a movement in England to improve military preparedness). How do you think this books unique inspiration informs its character?
2. 2. The novel features much technical and nautical detail (Childers drew on his own extensive expertise and travels in writing the book); does this aspect of the work draw you in as a reader? Do you feel that the work successfully balances this kind of detail against a broader narrative?
3. 3. Compare the characters of Carruthers and Davies; how are they alike and how do they differ; how would you describe their relationship? How does their evolving rapport play into the story this novel is telling?
4. 4. Discuss the villain Dollmann, and the villains of the story generally: do you find them powerful? Menacing? Convincing? Realistic? Do you think Childers was aiming for realism?
5. 5. It is often said that the genre of the British spy novel begins with this novel. Compare it to later espionage fiction: in what ways do you think it has made its influence felt?
6. 6. What, finally, is the riddle of the sands, and how do Carruthers and Davies solve it?
7. 7. Remarking on the cultural context of The Riddle of the Sands, critic Benny Green wrote that it “was perhaps the best of those Edwardian call-to-arms thrillers which acquired their tension from the British neurosis, real or imagined, regarding the possibility of some lesser breed without the law constituting a serious threat to their world dominance.” Do this kind of critical perspective on the novel and the storys particular “tension” enhance your reading of it?