The Power-House

The Power-House by John Buchan: A Thrilling Adventure in London

The Power-House by John Buchan


Have you ever heard of The Power-House by John Buchan? If not, you are missing out on one of the most thrilling and captivating novels of the early 20th century. The Power-House by John Buchan is a novel that was first published in 1916, after being serialized in Blackwood’s Magazine in 1913. It is the first of five novels that feature Edward Leithen, a successful lawyer and politician who gets involved in various adventures and mysteries.

The Power-House by John Buchan is set in London, England, where Leithen discovers that his friend Charles Pitt-Heron has vanished mysteriously. He soon learns that Pitt-Heron has stumbled upon a secret society called “The Power-House”, led by the wealthy and charismatic Andrew Lumley. The Power-House is a network of influential and ruthless people who aim to destabilize the world order and create chaos. Leithen must use his wits and courage to stop Lumley and his agents from carrying out their evil plans.

The Power-House by John Buchan is a novel that combines action, suspense, and intrigue. It explores themes such as power, corruption, loyalty, and friendship. It also showcases Buchan’s skill as a writer, who can create vivid scenes and characters with his words. In this article, we will take a closer look at the plot, the characters, and the themes of The Power-House by John Buchan. We will also answer some frequently asked questions about this novel and provide some suggestions for further reading.

John Buchan

Plot Summary

The plot of The Power-House by John Buchan can be summarized as follows:

  • Leithen meets his friend Tommy Deloraine, who tells him about Pitt-Heron’s disappearance. Pitt-Heron is an eccentric adventurer who often travels abroad for various schemes. His wife Ethel, whom Leithen used to love, is worried about him.
  • Ethel finds a draft of a letter that Pitt-Heron was writing to her before he vanished. The letter warns her of a terrible danger and mentions “The Power-House”. Leithen decides to help Tommy find Pitt-Heron and unravel the mystery.
  • Leithen contacts Macgillivray, a detective from Scotland Yard, and Felix, a friend from the embassy. They inform him that Pitt-Heron has been seen in Central Asia, where he is being chased by two men: Saranov and Roth. Saranov is an agent of Lumley, the leader of The Power-House. Roth is Lumley’s butler, who is also a spy.
  • Leithen realizes that he is being watched by Lumley’s men in London. He teams up with Chapman, a Labour MP and Tommy’s friend, who is eager to fight. They manage to escape from several traps and attacks set by Lumley.
  • Felix reports that Pitt-Heron and Tommy have been rescued from Saranov and Roth. One of them has been killed and the other has confessed. They reveal that Lumley is planning to start a war between Russia and Germany by assassinating the Russian ambassador in Berlin.
  • Leithen writes a letter to Macgillivray with all the evidence he has gathered against Lumley. He asks him to meet him at 9:30 pm at the embassy. He then goes to Lumley’s house for a final confrontation.
  • Leithen offers Lumley a chance to escape if he agrees to leave England forever and stop his schemes. Lumley refuses and tries to kill Leithen. Leithen shoots him in self-defense.
  • Macgillivray arrives at the embassy with the police and arrests Lumley’s associates. He congratulates Leithen for his bravery and intelligence.
  • Leithen reunites with Ethel and Pitt-Heron. He realizes that he still loves Ethel, but he respects her marriage. He decides to remain friends with them.

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The main characters of The Power-House by John Buchan are:

  • Edward Leithen: The narrator and protagonist of the novel. He is a barrister and MP who has a keen sense of justice and adventure. He is loyal to his friends and courageous in facing danger.
  • Charles Pitt-Heron: Leithen’s friend who disappears after finding out about The Power-House. He is an adventurous and eccentric man who likes to explore the world. He is married to Ethel, whom he loves dearly.
  • Ethel Pitt-Heron: Leithen’s former love interest and Pitt-Heron’s wife. She is a beautiful and gentle woman who is worried about her husband. She trusts Leithen and asks for his help.
  • Tommy Deloraine: Leithen’s friend and Pitt-Heron’s cousin. He is a young and energetic man who loves sports and adventure. He follows Pitt-Heron to Central Asia to rescue him.
  • Chapman: Tommy’s friend and a Labour MP. He is a big and strong man who likes to fight. He helps Leithen in London against Lumley’s men.
  • Andrew Lumley: The antagonist of the novel. He is the leader of The Power-House, a secret society that aims to create chaos and war. He is a rich and cultured man who collects art and books. He is also a mastermind and a manipulator who has many followers and agents.
  • Saranov: Lumley’s agent who chases Pitt-Heron in Central Asia. He is a ruthless and cunning man who works for The Power-House.
  • Roth: Lumley’s butler who is also a spy. He follows Saranov in Central Asia and tries to kill Pitt-Heron.
  • Macgillivray: A detective from Scotland Yard who helps Leithen with the case. He is a smart and reliable man who trusts Leithen’s judgment.
  • Felix: A friend of Leithen from the embassy. He provides Leithen with information and assistance.

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The main themes of The Power-House by John Buchan are:

  • Power: The novel explores the concept of power and its effects on people. Lumley represents the negative aspect of power, as he uses it to manipulate, control, and destroy others. He believes that he has the right to shape the world according to his will, regardless of the consequences. Leithen represents the positive aspect of power, as he uses it to protect, serve, and uphold justice. He believes that he has the duty to stop Lumley and his plans, even at the risk of his own life.
  • Corruption: The novel exposes the corruption that exists in society, especially among the powerful and influential people. Lumley and his followers are examples of corrupt people who abuse their positions and resources for their own benefit. They are willing to sacrifice innocent lives and peace for their selfish goals. They also try to corrupt others by offering them money, fame, or power in exchange for their loyalty or silence.
  • Loyalty: The novel highlights the importance of loyalty and friendship in times of crisis. Leithen and his friends are examples of loyal people who stick together and help each other in facing danger. They trust each other and share a common cause. They also respect each other’s choices and feelings, even when they differ from their own.
  • Adventure: The novel celebrates the spirit of adventure and curiosity that drives people to explore the world and discover new things. Pitt-Heron is an example of an adventurous person who enjoys traveling and learning about different cultures and places. He also has a sense of humor and optimism that helps him cope with difficulties. Leithen is also an adventurous person who likes to challenge himself and test his limits. He also has a sense of wonder and appreciation for the beauty and diversity of the world.

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Some frequently asked questions about The Power-House by John Buchan are:

  • Q: Is The Power-House by John Buchan based on a true story?
    • A: No, The Power-House by John Buchan is not based on a true story. It is a fictional novel that was inspired by Buchan’s own experiences as a writer, lawyer, politician, and traveler. However, some aspects of the novel may reflect some historical events or situations that occurred in the early 20th century, such as the tensions between Russia and Germany, the rise of secret societies, or the influence of art collectors.
  • Q: Is The Power-House by John Buchan part of a series?
    • A: Yes, The Power-House by John Buchan is part of a series that features Edward Leithen as the main character. The other novels in the series are John Macnab (1925), The Dancing Floor (1926), The Gap in the Curtain (1932), and Sick Heart River (1941). However, each novel can be read as a standalone story, as they have different plots and settings.
  • Q: Who is John Buchan and why is he famous?
    • A: John Buchan was a Scottish novelist, historian, and politician who lived from 1875 to 1940. He is famous for his adventure novels, especially The Thirty-Nine Steps, which was adapted into several films. He also served as the Governor General of Canada from 1935 to 1940.
  • Q: What is the genre and style of The Power-House by John Buchan?
    • A: The Power-House by John Buchan is a novel that belongs to the genre of thriller or adventure. It is written in the first-person perspective of Leithen, who narrates his experiences and thoughts. The style of the novel is fast-paced, suspenseful, and descriptive. It also contains some elements of humor, irony, and satire.
  • Q: What are some of the literary devices and techniques used in The Power-House by John Buchan?
    • A: Some of the literary devices and techniques used in The Power-House by John Buchan are:
      • Foreshadowing: The author hints at some events or outcomes that will happen later in the story. For example, when Leithen first meets Lumley, he feels a sense of uneasiness and dread that foreshadows their conflict.
      • Symbolism: The author uses objects, characters, or places to represent abstract ideas or concepts. For example, the title of the novel, The Power-House, symbolizes the secret society that controls the world and its power.
      • Contrast: The author compares or contrasts two or more things to highlight their differences or similarities. For example, the author contrasts Leithen and Lumley as two opposite types of power-holders: one who uses it for good and one who uses it for evil.
      • Allusion: The author refers to other works of literature, art, history, or culture to enrich the meaning or context of the story. For example, the author alludes to Shakespeare’s Macbeth when he describes Lumley as “a man who would wade through slaughter to a throne”.


The Power-House by John Buchan is a novel that deserves to be read and appreciated by modern readers. It is a novel that offers a thrilling and captivating story that keeps the reader engaged and entertained. It is also a novel that explores important and relevant themes that challenge the reader to think and reflect. It is a novel that showcases Buchan’s talent and skill as a writer who can create memorable scenes and characters with his words.

If you are looking for a book that will take you on an exciting adventure in London, then you should definitely read The Power-House by John Buchan. You will not regret it!

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