Buchan is best known today as the author of the espionage thriller, The 39 Steps, though more people have probably seen the Hitchcock movie version than read the book. Readers expecting something similar to 39 Steps or Buchan's other thrillers will be disappointed by Witch Wood. This is, however, a better book than the thrillers. Buchan patterned Witch Wood after Robert Louis Stevenson historical novels like Kidnapped or The Master of Ballantrae, books which take a human issue and the historical setting seriously. Set in 17th century lowland Scotland, the hero of Witch Wood is a young and idealistic Presbyterian minister. This book, which has adventure elements, is essentially a story of conflicts of conscience faced by the hero. Buchan was the son of a Presbyterian minister, had a strong interest in church history, and at one point in his public career, was directly involved in the affairs of the Church of Scotland. I suspect as well that elements are based on his own boyhood. While aspects of the plot are a bit contrived and some parts anachronistic, Buchan really does well in making something human and interesting out of the doctrinal politics and theology of Presbyterianism at this time.