Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bear Island (published in 1971) - Written by Alistair Maclean - story of murders on a lone cold island

Alistair MacLean is a Scottish writer who specialized in writing thrillers and crime stories. He was third son of a Scottish minister and joined the Royal Navy during the world war two. He was a senior torpedo operator at the height of his career. He was in the thick of the war theater during the world war and saw action on many fronts especially the arctic north. After retiring he started penning his novels based on the war he saw and many of them became best sellers. Maclean never looked back as a writer until his death in 1987.
Bear island is a detective thriller which is set up in the Norwegian seas. This is one of the later Alistair MacLean books where the who done it plot kept the action going. Typical of all MacLean Books the elements play an important part. In fact MacLean describes the cold Arctic so well that the reader gets the goose bumps.
A film crew sets sail to the Bear island, across the Barents sea ostensibly to shoot a feature film on a trawler which is renovated as a luxury sail boat called the Morning Rose. Most of the crew who are part of the film hardly know the script except for the director and the scriptwriter. Aboard the ship there is a medic Dr. Marlowe and couple of Mary's.

Soon the mystery starts as the crew members are killed one by one by a murderer. Marlowe is puzzled by this and starts his investigation. The murders continue even as the crew is deposited on the Bear Island and are beyond the help of any law enforcing agencies. Marlowe is not what he professes to be. He is an agent with the US treasury and is shadowing the boat along with the police. The mysterious director Otto jergan is after the gold ingots and securities which was buried by a Nazi Admiral under the sea after the world war two. There are several sub plots which involves a Romanian count, hit mans, Admirals daughter etc which ultimately converges to the main plot. So after a lot of twist in the plot Marlowe uncovers their sinister designs and foils the murders.
Some times the book is a drag because of the multiple designs and activities. The past and the present collide rapidly that the reader keeps getting confused. As for ever MacLean does not give the women any credit or scenes for the women. Only thing which stands out in the book is the description of Bear Island. It is presented so very beautifully by MacLean that it can be copied by any tourist operator.
Bear Island was adapted to film in the 1980 movie directed by Don Sharp and starring Donald Sutherland, Richard Widmark, Vanessa Redgrave, and Christopher Lee. The film was shot in Canada and Alaska. The film bears little resemblance to the book and even the hero's name is Lansing instead of Marlowe. The scenery described by Alistair Maclean is also absent from the movie. So go ahead pick up the book. Its worth a first time look.

Bear Island (published in 1071) - Written by Alistair Maclean - story of murders on a lone cold island

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