My father explained that The Riddle of the Sands was about sailing, as he watched the seventies film version (with, of course, Michael York). I didn’t understand much of pay attention much at the time, but the memory stuck with me.

Without actually reading the book or watching the movie, I became more aware of it.

It was an early book that premised the idea that England’s future enemy was not it’s traditional foe, France, but a rising Germany. It was also an early version of the modern spy story.

A sailing enthusiast becomes convinced that a german yachter tried to get him killed by leading him down a dangerous coastal waterway, so he recruits a college friend to investigate was the Germans could be hiding, the titular riddle (the area is filled with sand bars and shifting sand islands). There is a British traitor, disguises, and a lot of dangerous sailing – which he manages to make exciting (there is no violence or fighting, but plenty of tension).

I will admit that I skipped the very end, which is a brief treatise of how England could secure her coasts against a German invasion using small, light boats arriving unexpectedly from that sandy coast, but I can’t imagine it’s very relevant now.