Bear Island (novel)

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Bear Island
First edition cover (UK)
Author Alistair MacLean
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Thriller Novel
Publisher Collins (UK)
Doubleday (US)
Publication date
Preceded by Caravan to Vaccarès
Followed by Alistair MacLean Introduces Scotland (non-fiction)

Bear Island is a thriller novel by Scottish author Alistair MacLean. Originally published in 1971 with a cover by Norman Weaver, it was the last of MacLean's novels to be written in first-person narrative. This novel is a locked room mystery with the added twist that the scene of the crimes is set on Bear Island, an island in the Svalbard archipelago of the Norwegian Arctic.

Plot summary[edit]

A converted fishing trawler, Morning Rose carries a movie-making crew across the Barents Sea to isolated Bear Island, well above the Arctic Circle, for some on-location filming, but the script is a secret known only to the producer and screenwriter. En route, members of the movie crew and ship's company begin to die under mysterious circumstances. The crew's doctor, Marlowe, finds himself enmeshed in a violent, multi-layered plot in which very few of the persons aboard are whom they claim to be. Marlowe's efforts to unravel the plot become even more complicated once the movie crew is deposited ashore on Bear Island, beyond the reach of the law or outside help. The murders continue ashore, and Marlowe, who is not what he seems to be either, discovers they may be related to some forgotten events of the Second World War.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations[edit]

The novel sold over 8 million copies. Bear Island was adapted to film in the 1980 movie directed by Don Sharp and starred Donald Sutherland, Richard Widmark, Vanessa Redgrave, and Christopher Lee. The film was shot in Canada and Alaska, and the scenery bears little resemblance to Bear Island. Furthermore, the plot and characterization of the novel were greatly altered by the scriptwriters, to the point of changing the name of the protagonist from “Marlowe” to “Lansing”.[1]


  1. ^ BEAR ISLAND': THE FILM THAT STAYED OUT IN THE COLD ADILMAN, SID. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 11 Mar 1979: m6.

External links[edit]