The Riddle of the Sands

Read by Gesine

(4.3 stars; 114 reviews)

Containing many realistic details based on Childers' own sailing trips along the German North Sea coast, the book is the retelling of a yachting expedition in the early 20th century combined with an adventurous spy story.

It was one of the early invasion novels which predicted war with Germany and called for British preparedness. The plot involves the uncovering of secret German preparations for an invasion of the United Kingdom. It is often called the first modern spy novel, although others are as well, it was certainly very influential in the genre and for its time.

The book enjoyed immense popularity in the years before World War I and was extremely influential. Winston Churchill later credited it as a major reason that the Admiralty decided to establish naval bases at Invergordon, the Firth of Forth and Scapa Flow. (Summary from Wikipedia) (12 hr 24 min)


Preface 5:52 Read by Gesine
The Letter 18:09 Read by Gesine
The Dulcibella 32:56 Read by Gesine
Davies 25:05 Read by Gesine
Retrospect 19:23 Read by Gesine
Wanted, a North Wind 21:03 Read by Gesine
Schlei Fiord 17:48 Read by Gesine
The Missing Page 29:31 Read by Gesine
The Theory 28:04 Read by Gesine
I Sign Articles 20:37 Read by Gesine
His Chance 18:59 Read by Gesine
The Pathfinders 20:34 Read by Gesine
My Initiation 24:53 Read by Gesine
The Meaning of our Work 13:11 Read by Gesine
The First Night in the Islands 19:53 Read by Gesine
Bensersiel 17:32 Read by Gesine
Commander von Bruening 32:22 Read by Gesine
Clearing the Air 27:37 Read by Gesine
Imperial Escort 14:25 Read by Gesine
The Rubicon 32:44 Read by Gesine
The Little Drab Book 26:54 Read by Gesine
Blindfold to Memmert 35:12 Read by Gesine
The Quartette 29:51 Read by Gesine
A Change of Tactics 31:43 Read by Gesine
Finesse 36:27 Read by Gesine
I Double Back 29:34 Read by Gesine
The Seven Siels 31:16 Read by Gesine
The Luck of the Stowaway 36:46 Read by Gesine
We Achieve our Double Aim 20:57 Read by Gesine
Epilogue and Postscript 25:14 Read by Gesine


Free Listens review

(4 stars)

Although the novel is a direct influence on later spy novels, I found much of the book not the exciting, suspense-filled yarn like those of John le Carre or Frederick Forsyth. Instead, the first part of the book reads like a travelogue of the Baltic coast mixed with a introduction to nautical terms. This part of the book highlights its difficulty as an audiobook; it relies heavily on the reader following the boat's progress on a map provided in the print editions. Later on in the novel, Childers delivers suspense and intrigue as the two friends creep through fog to spy on the German plans and find their earlier explorations pay off with their knowledge of high-tide paths through the treacherous estuaries. Full review at

Thanks Gesine

(5 stars)

I read 'Riddle of the Sands' when in my teens and it has stayed with me many long years. Gesine's reading was comfortable and easy to follow. I also found the maps useful and spent some time searching on the web to learn more about the coast and islands. This tale of meeting up with an old school mate to go sailing for a 'holiday' is as good a story now as it was in my youth. Both a mystery and an adventure story it is also a fine spy story.

(5 stars)

Excellent reading of a masterful novel. I very much enjoyed how the reticent, self-reliant character of Davies is revealed and amplified through his companion's narrative and descriptions, and how parts of the story are coaxed out of this man of action but of few words. As a some-time sailor, the description of the process of sailing a small yacht seems accurate and authentic, but I guess if a reader knows nothing about sailing then the early parts may drag.

Enjoyable If

(5 stars) has all of the text and high-resolution maps. I agree that the maps are important, so I supply a good link. And I agree that the pace is slow unless you care about yacht sailing. It's best to understand this as the precursor to modern spy novels. If you like this, try Riley, Ace of Spies, a 1967 book or The True James Bond at


(3.5 stars)

The story was interesting enough and the characters pretty well defined. However it became a bit tedious with the overload of information on the characteristics of the canals and such that the story got lost or at least ran aground a little bit. As I was not inthronged with the story It kept me from falling asleep as I was sitting in my hunting stand.

(5 stars)

This is one of my favourite books. The descriptions are so vivid and constant that you’re easily pulled into that world at that time. It is lovely to see the growth of the protagonist’s relationship. Also, the reader is fantastic, her style and accent is perfect, it doesn’t take away from the story telling but enhances it.

excellent reader

(5 stars)

Gesine, I wish you would read more on librivox. I'm rating this 5 stars, although I'm only a few chapters in as I write, because I see very few other titles read by you, and I wish I could look forward to more. Thank you in any case for reading this engrossing tale.

(5 stars)

I just keep coming back to this book. The conversion of the sedentary government clerk from a prejudice against unsophisticated social circles and elemental living conditions to the satisfaction of self-sufficiency in the isolated waterways of Germany’s North Sea coast, has me wanting to sail there too.