Title: Bear Island
Author: Alistair MacLean
MacLean, Alistair (1971). Bear Island. Garden City, NY: Doubleday
Date Posted: May 22, 2013
A review by Rich Rogers from Independent Book Reviews
When Alistair MacLean was on his game, no one could touch him. (Like all writers, even he had a few dogs in the mix.) A tour of the publisher’s Web site shows that they only have a few of his novels available – his first, H.M.S. Ulysses, is among those available, however. But even these few are cause to rejoice. It’s been ages since he passed away, 1987, and half an age since his books have been available in print, and they do have some of his best-known titles.
When I discovered a whole shelf of MacLean novels staring at me in Barnes and Noble a month ago, I almost shrieked for joy – “almost” being the key word. But I did do a quick jump for joy. A very small one. Almost no one noticed.
It starts on a converted trawler, the Morning Rose, making its way through the rough waters of the Arctic Ocean north of Norway to the titular Bear Island [a real place], carrying actors and a film crew and the members of the production company. And then someone dies. And then a few more deaths. So the question is: Are the deaths a case of food poisoning or murder?
Other shadowy things begin happening, which leave the ship’s doctor, Christopher Marlowe, certain it’s murder. And the deaths continue on the barren Bear Island.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve been away from MacLean for such a long time, but it took me a while to get into the flow of the story. It’s definitely a different style than what many readers are used to these days. MacLean takes his time setting up the players on the chess board, giving each character’s back story so you have more than enough information to wonder which one it is. (Often, Marlowe’s asides drag the story.) And as is typical in an Alistair MacLean story, all is not as it seems.
In the end, this was a wonderful read, and I thoroughly enjoyed returning to a writer who helped me develop my love of reading.
Maclean’s books degenerated from his first till his death. I read most of them, including this one. He never claimed to be a novelist, per se, but a story teller. In spite of his almost formula writing, I did enjoy reading every book.