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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic MacLean
This is the book that started me reading. I borrowed it from a friend when I was about 14. I didn't want to give the impression that I didn't read books so I took it from him and planned to give it back on the next Monday - but with some pages surrepticiously folded back and the spine bent. Hah! sneaky huh? I also wanted to be able to say something about it so I read the...
Published on 29 Jan. 2009 by T. R. Walker

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bear Island, enjoyable but a bit slow
I enjoy the Maclean books and the plot to this book is good. The setting of Bear Island high in the Arctic is quite irresistable. However, I found the book progressing at a slow pace and his conversational style felt 'wordier' than usual in this book. I would say that if you like the author, then get this book but if you are new to Maclean, then read a couple of others...
Published on 25 July 2011 by N. Smith


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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic MacLean, 29 Jan. 2009
By 
T. R. Walker (Bath, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Bear Island (Paperback)
This is the book that started me reading. I borrowed it from a friend when I was about 14. I didn't want to give the impression that I didn't read books so I took it from him and planned to give it back on the next Monday - but with some pages surrepticiously folded back and the spine bent. Hah! sneaky huh? I also wanted to be able to say something about it so I read the first page. It was fairly ok so I managed the second. Then just kept going. Then a major event took place - when the main character realised the murderer might be after him - I was hooked. More than hooked, it was an epiphany. I could not put the book down. And it changed my life, literally. I gained confidence and the dry sarcastic humour so endearingly painted of the hero in the novel. And became a huge Maclean fan. Now it's not the best novel ever written - but I will forever regard it as very special. Thanks Mr Maclean.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bear Island, enjoyable but a bit slow, 25 July 2011
By 
N. Smith - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bear Island (Kindle Edition)
I enjoy the Maclean books and the plot to this book is good. The setting of Bear Island high in the Arctic is quite irresistable. However, I found the book progressing at a slow pace and his conversational style felt 'wordier' than usual in this book. I would say that if you like the author, then get this book but if you are new to Maclean, then read a couple of others first because I think if you read this first, there is a chance you might not return to him .... and that would be a shame.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mystery at sea, 9 July 2008
"Bear Island" is a mystery novel set on a boat heding for the remote Bear Island (Bjørnøya) in the Barents Sea. The ship is carrying a film crew and actors who plan to make a movie on the island. The novel is narrated in first person by the ship's doctor. A number of people die from apparent food poisoning, but Dr. Marlow suspects murder.

The story tends to drag a bit before they get to the island, but not too much. Once they get to the island, MacLean throws in a nice plot twist and the pace picks up. This, and the humorous narrative helps it earn 4 stars. I also like MacLean's description of Bear Island. Even though I hate when it's cold, it almost made me want to go there.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Join MacLean..., 27 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: Bear Island (Paperback)
All at sea on a ship carrying a film crew and a murderer...
Having spent some time in the later part of MacLean's career and being mainly disappointed it was with a sense of trepidation that I picked up Bear Island, being slowly in the process of forgetting what made him such a great writer.
Luckily page 1 reminded me and I was drawn in. His prose crackes here whereas in later work it barely simmers.
So the good news is that this is MacLean's best books, the bad news is that this is the last of top drawer outings. The slide started after this book in my opinion.
THE PLOT. The crew and cast of an upcoming film are sailing to the remote Bear Island to make their new picture. On the way however a case of food poisoning kills 3 people and Dr Marlow suspects the case was not accidental.
THE CHARACTERS. Dr Marlowe makes for a better hero than in other books as for the first half of the book he is taken by surprise, caught unawares and nearly murdered. For a MacLean hero not to be in complete control is a good change of pace. The best sequences in the book are when Marlowe gets racked with paranoia and does not know who to trust. As one of the other reviewers point out, when Marlow realises the killer is after him too is a great plot twist and kept me on tenterhooks.
However, by the end Marlowe seems to know exactly what is going without any major eureka moments and one of the characters position as a villain is just dropped into a sentence in such a off handed manner I didn't think it was relevant. The trouble is for all of Marlowe's early perplexity, he knows everything all of a sudden which makes for an unsatisfying volte-face. Moreover, I got the impression that if I were to read it again, there would be a few plot holes regarding Marlowe's knowledge.
The supporting cast is large but memorable. MacLean's later novels are weighed down with dull as dishwater characters that are highly forgettable. The cast here is mainly painted from broad strokes but is easy to remember who is who from the film's producer Otto (played by Robert Morley in the film in my head) to the bolshy female lead (played by Liz Taylor in the film in my head). One small quibble is that in the early stages a character list would have been helpful to keep track of who does what within the company.
One aspect that I appreciated is that two of the three female characters are called Mary. It is an annoyance of mine that in films, TV, books you never have two people with the same name whereas in real life you know scores of people with the same name. I digress but I appreciated MacLean addressing this issue.
PLOT. Maybe a little longer than it could have been but I never got bored which is the ultimate test. The murder mystery is a strong plot and whilst I didn't like how the resolution was revealed in a rather undramatic manner the identity of the murderer I found to be satisfying. The story is low on action but I dont think this overly affected the book.
CONCLUSION
A rattling, good MacLean book, while he still had the spark.
A sign of this being a later work is the sheer amount of drinking that goes on in this book. Seriously, the characters spend most of their time drinking whisky and when they are talking about the murders, they're talking about whisky. I got the impression MacLean was probably knocking back the hard stuff when he wrote this. By ATHABASCA the alcohol intake by so called professional investigators has reached Withnail & I standards.
Bear Island also follows the rule that the best MacLean books are set somewhere cold or wet.
So far the best MacLean books I have read are.
WHERE EAGLES DARE (cold)
ICE STATION ZEBRA (cold and wet)
SOUTH BY JAVA HEAD (wet)
BEAR ISLAND (wet)
GUNS OF NAVARONE (wet... it's on an island!)
NIGHT WITHOUT END (cold)
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read, 25 Feb. 2007
By 
Birmingham Book Reader (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bear Island (Hardcover)
I first read 'Bear Island' when a teenager, as back then I would read anything that Alistair MacLean wrote. At the time I thought it was one of his weakest books. But now 25 years on Bear Island is a super adventure story, full of exciting action. The novel is much better than the film!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Just about worth reading - but only just, 6 Mar. 2013
This review is from: Bear Island (Paperback)
This, in my view, is the last of Alistair MacLean's books that is worth reading. The quality of writing has now slipped so far that the relentless tension of earlier works is barely perceptible, and one hardly cares what happens to any of the characters. A ship carrying the staff needed to shoot a movie in the Arctic near Svalbard is beset by several cases of poisoning - several fatal. The plot then degenerates into a literally incredible tale of stolen Nazi gold! By the time you're halfway through the book you're asking so many questions like 'would they do that?' that it becomes difficult to motivate further reading. There is considerable interesting scene-setting if you are at all curious in the region. Apart from that, this is a very humdrum adventure yarn - the twists and turns are very predictable - sometimes even flagged in previous chapters.

One of the characters states - "You have a point to make, dear, and you're leading up to it in a very tortuous fashion. I wish you would come to it." - which, I am afraid, sums up the book and what is wrong with it - suggesting that MacLean knew, and no longer cared?
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too dated for my taste..., 13 Feb. 2011
This review is from: Bear Island (Paperback)
Only the second book I've read by the Author, the other being [The way to dusty death], which I really enjoyed.

This book follows the exploits of a film crew on the way to Bear island, a remote small island in the artic circle. Written in the first person through the eyes of a Dr Marlowe we are informed of his attempts to discover a killer amongst them as people start to turn up dead.... There are a number of unexpected twists and it is interesting to see how the character views everyone with suspicion as he weighs up the possible motives.

I was really looking forward to getting stuck into this as the plot sets the scene for what could have been a really tense thriller, unfortunately I just couldn't get into the book in the way I'd hoped.

There is not one character that is remotely likable and this, coupled with lengthy (and often boring) dialogues made the novel just seem to drag and drag.....

I'm not sure if it was just very dated and has not stood the test of time well, but I couldn't wait for it to be over.

Is hasn't put me off reading further novels by Maclean, but maybe just lowered my expectations.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of his best, 20 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Bear Island (Paperback)
One of my favourite Maclean thrillers and apart from being a thriller, it's a chiller as its set in Maclean's famous settings - the Arctic. A complete contrast to his previous novel - another fave, caravan to Vacarres - as that book was more like a bondian adventure and this one is more of a mystery, full of mystery and murder a la Agatha Christie. Yes, it is a bit overlong but the pace doesn't let up, and my fingers got burn marks from turning the pages and they also got frostbites due to the vivid description of the desolate setting. To attest to the page turning ability of this classic, I had read this a day before millennium, and instead of partying the night away in some joint on New Years eve, I was stuck with this book for six hours flat, unable to put it down.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Cold, calculating and chillingly brilliant., 14 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Bear Island (Paperback)
Classic MacLean (author Alistair, not Die Hard John) set in the frozen north with the usual one man against the odds (perhaps he should have written Die Hard scripts?)

As usual he really brings the surroundings to life, and the chill of the wind can be felt by the reader. Good plot. Interesting characters. Good twists.

A perfect thriller, beautifully executed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A favorite, 13 Nov. 2011
This review is from: Bear Island (Kindle Edition)
Bear Island is an entertaining mystery/adventure. Right from the start, the suspense bubbles beneath the action. Characters great. Setting vivid. Island remote. The pace a is bit slow at times, but the mystery kept me reading and guessing. MacLean's best that I've read still The Guns of Navarone.

Roger Weston, author of The Golden Catch
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Bear Island
Bear Island by Alistair MacLean (Paperback - 5 Mar. 1973)
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