Marooned and in Peril: Five Crime Novels Set on Islands

They're remote. They're wind-swept. And they're deadly. Join Edwin Hill for a look at five crime novels set on dangerous islands.

There’s something inherently interesting about a mystery set on an island. There are those that are set on small islands: ones that are remote, wind-swept, and hopefully facing a devastating storm. The threat of isolation without the possibility of outside assistance makes for great storytelling. Then there are the ones that explore those tiny close-knit communities filled with characters who choose island life, an existence that’s unique and far away from the rest of the world. Here, long-standing rivalries among people who all know each other a bit too well can spiral and wreak havoc in all the best ways.

So, here are five novels, old and new, set in the remotest, most wind-swept corners of the earth (and one with a decidedly more urban setting):

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

I’ve seen so many movie versions of this story (the 1974 version starring Elke Sommer was a mainstay on of my childhood, though time has not been kind to it) that I almost forgot the original novel takes place on an island off the coast of Devon, England. Almost everyone knows the set up: eight strangers arrive on the island with invitations tailored to their own needs—an offer of employment, a free vacation, etc.—only to get killed off one by one, by methods outlined in a nursery rhyme. If you haven’t read this book in a while, or if you’ve only seen the movie versions, you might be surprised by how delightfully dark the original is, or how much influence it has had over later works, including ‘80s slasher movies. Christie adapted it into a stage play, and even she thought the ending should lighten up for theater audiences. I think she got it just right the first time around.

 

The Darkness by Ragnar Jonasson

The Icelandic landscape lends itself to crime writing. The idea of an entire island nation of fewer than four hundred thousand people huddled together against the elements, fending off the light of summer and the darkness of winter makes for great storytelling. One of my favorite authors to come out of Iceland in recent years is Ragnar Jonasson. The Darkness (translated by Victoria Cribb), the first in his Hulda series, uses prose as sparse as the landscape to create an atmospheric thriller that explores themes of loneliness, sexism, and aging as he follows Hulda, a 64-year-old detective facing forced retirement, while she makes one last-ditch effort to solve the murder of an immigrant woman no one seems to care about. A surprise ending will make you want to continue with what promises to be a thrilling trilogy.

 

Stay Hidden by Paul Doiron

The ninth outing in Doiron’s Mike Bowditch series takes the game investigator Bowditch to a speck of an island twenty miles off the coast of Maine, the fictional Maquoit Island, which Doiron even had a mapmaker draw up for the book. The story exploits all the beauty and complications of such a remote setting, including the once-a-week ferry that plays an important role in the intricate plot. This is a great series that captures Maine living at its best and worst, and you might want to start at the beginning with The Poacher’s Son.

Exclusive: Read Paul Doiron’s Short Story “Backtrack” Now!

Murder with Puffins by Donna Andrews

The second book in Andrews’ Meg Langslow series takes a cozier view of a Maine island, stranding Meg and her extended family on the very real and very remote Monhegan Island when a hurricane hits. The plot in this novel is well executed and, like with all the books in the long-running series, the fun is seeing Meg’s coping strategies for her large and eccentric family. Andrews does an excellent job of capturing the spirit of Monhegan, a four-square-mile hunk of granite eight miles off the coast of Boothbay Harbor that hosts artists in the summer and where cars aren’t allowed and the year-round population hovers around forty.

 

The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

For another classic, you can visit my favorite island of them all, Manhattan Island, which is anything but bleak, and down a few (or many) cocktails with Nick and Nora Charles, while flitting around town to speakeasies and clubs. The plot in this novel is intricate—involving gangsters, a missing inventor, adultery, lots of subterfuge, and much more—but it also introduces two of the most endearing crime fighters, some of the best dialogue you’ll ever read, and a spitfire of a dog named Asta, so it won’t be all bad if you have to read it more than once to figure out what the hell happened. I did.

Photo Credit: Thomas Bollinger

About The Missing Ones

Hester Thursby has given up using her research skills to trace people who don’t want to be found. A traumatic case a few months ago unearthed a string of violent crimes, and left Hester riddled with self-doubt and guilt. Caring for a four-year-old is responsibility enough in a world filled with terrors Hester never could have imagined before.

Finisterre Island, off the coast of Maine, is ruggedly beautiful and remote—the kind of place tourists love to visit, though rarely for long. But not everyone who comes to the island is welcome. A dilapidated Victorian house has become home to a group of squatters and junkies, and strangers have a habit of bringing trouble with them. A young boy disappeared during the summer, and though he was found safely, the incident stirred suspicion among locals. Now another child is missing. Summoned to the island by a cryptic text, Hester discovers a community cleaning up from a devastating storm—and uncovers a murder.

Soon Hester begins to connect the crime and the missing children. And as she untangles the secrets at the center of the small community, she finds grudges and loyalties that run deep, poised to converge with a force that will once again shake her convictions about the very nature of right and wrong . . .


Comment below for a chance to win a copy of The Missing Ones by Edwin Hill!

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The Missing Ones Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at http://www.criminalelement.com/marooned-and-in-peril-five-crime-novels-set-on-islands/ beginning at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) August 22, 2019. Sweepstakes ends at 2:59 p.m. ET September 5, 2019. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 120 Broadway, New York, NY 10010.

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Comments

  1. John Smith

    The 1940s Rene Clair “And Then There Were None” is one of my favorite films! And the 1960s version of the story set at a ski lodge is also very good! I saw the 1970s version in the theatre when it came out and it always seemed deeply, deeply flawed!

  2. Linda Moore
  3. Linda Moore

    I loved the first book and can’t wait to read this one. I would LOVE to have a copy of this for my book room.

  4. Paula Funk

    I would love to read and review the missing one

  5. Angela Sanford

    I absolutely love all of Agatha Christie’s books and seeing the list of books where the setting was an island, has me adding them to my TBR list.

  6. Angie
  7. lasvegasnv

    suspenseful

  8. Grace Koshida

    An interesting and diverse list of mysteries set on islands. I have read them all.
    Thanks for the chance to win a copy of The Missing Ones.

  9. Linda Smith

    What an interesting article! I’d love to read and review this new one. Several friends have been recommending your books. Thank you so much for the chance!

  10. Kara Marks

    I’d love to read these.

  11. Missy Block

    Gah!!!! Cannot wait to get my eyes in this book!!!

  12. Rhonda Gothier

    Awesome. Thanks!

  13. Teresa Plunkett

    Cover looking good. Would like another book in my library. Thank you for the chance.

  14. Leeza Stetson

    I’d love to read this book. Thanks for the chance to win it.

  15. Deb Upkes

    This sounds so good! Thanks for the opportunity!

    • Roxanne Sapp

      Lovely

  16. Kimberly A Tutin

    I would love the chance to read my first book by Edwin Hill.

  17. DanielM

    sounds interesting

  18. Anne

    Captivating.

  19. April

    Thanks for this great giveaway.

  20. Daniel Cuthbert

    Mysterious island? Spooky house? You can never go wrong there! Definitely eager for the chance to read this one!

  21. Karl Stenger

    I would love to read the book.

  22. Karen Terry

    Sounds like a winner.

  23. Paul Gada

    Please and thanks.

  24. Linda McCutcheon

    Mr. Hill is a new author to me and I would love to read and review his latest novel The Missing Ones.

  25. paul klumbach

    page turning about to commence

  26. Christal M

    Looks like a great read!

  27. cathleen penner

    island mysteries are the best ones

  28. Desmond Warzel

    Sounds awesome

  29. carloshmarlo

    I think “And Then There Were None” was the first mystery I read as a teenager, it made a huge impression at the time and still holds a high place in my list of favorites. Thanks for the chance to win a copy of The Missing Ones!

  30. Doris Losey

    Enjoyed the first book in this series

  31. martin bodnar

    – thanks for the chance to win….

  32. Lesley Kay

    Great list! The TBR pile grows again…

  33. RD

    I would love the chance to read this book! Thanks for the chance.

  34. Jeannine

    Have seen a few of the movie adaptations, but now need to read the originals again. But they all sound like good reads.

  35. Barbara

    Sounds like a good plot!

  36. susan beamon

    I’ve read some of the listed books. Islands don’t have to be surrounded by water in crime books to be effective as crime novels. Just separate the area by weather, by desert, by mountain, by fire or whatever works and you have what you need.

    • Karey L. Newton

      I am anxious to read this novel. Sounds very suspenseful.

  37. Diana Hardt

    It sounds like a very interesting book. Thank you for the chance.

  38. Cheryl Hurst

    TravelAddict would love an opportunity to be Marooned and in Peril with this novel

  39. Lynda Walls

    Edwin Hill is my kind of writer! I’m going to look up and follow on Amazon, Goodreads, bookbub. Thank you!!!

  40. Cheryl Hurst

    TravelAddict would love to be Marooned and in Peril with this novel.

  41. Beth Talmage

    Your novel sounds very compelling. It will be in good company with the other island-based books you listed. (Nice list–I wouldn’t have thought of the Thin Man, but of course Manhattan counts!)

  42. Peter W.

    To find what was lost! Yes!

  43. sue weatherbee

    Sounds like a great read!

  44. Janet Gould

    Great list of books. Can’t wait to read this one.

  45. Phyllis McGuire

    Sounds intriguing! I would love to win a copy!!

  46. Michael Carter

    Please count me in for this sweepstakes.
    Thanks!

  47. Michelle Willms

    This sounds interesting. I hate I missed the first book (I’m going to find it now).

  48. L

    Good list of books….a couple I’ve read and a couple I haven’t heard of before. The Missing Ones sounds like it will be a good read. Even the description produces a feeling of uneasy tension and suspicion.

  49. Mary Duncan

    Sounds intriguing.

  50. Susan Morris

    I’ve only seen the movie version of “And Then There Were None”. I also haven’t read the other four books in the essay. Looking forward to reading these PLUS “The Missing Ones”. Sounds like my kind of crime novel.

  51. Beth Lechman

    This sounds interesting and full of suspense. Just the kind I like. Thanks for the chance to win.

  52. Betty Hade

    Always wanted to go to Maine and I love islands and mysteries!

  53. Tiffany

    This sounds great

  54. Rebecca Joy Mensinga

    Sounds like an interesting read! I love mystery/Thrillers!

  55. Jenny

    Would love to win this book! It looks like a good one!

  56. Saundra K. Warren

    Sounds great! Going on my TBR!!

  57. Glen Davis

    An interesting list! Thanks for the opportunity to win!

  58. Tiffany

    This looks great

  59. Barbara Fish

    I really want to win this book.

  60. SeattleReader

    It’s interesting how well islands work as settings for novels. I loved the Martha’s Vineyard mystery series by Phillip Craig and of course the Nantucket books by Elin Hilderbrand and the Gansett Island books by Marie Force are huge bestsellers. When done well, there’s something magical about novels set on islands.

  61. Daniel M

    sounds interesting

  62. Dianna Young

    Would love it…

  63. martin bodnar

    thanks for the chance to win!

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