Monday 6 July 2009

Mystery Islands

I love islands – especially small ones. They seem to me to be tranquil places, yet full of mystery. The best Golden Age detective story (in my opinion) is set on a small island – Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. And the enduring appeal of the island setting is highlighted by the success of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

For years, my favourite island has been Herm, in the English Channel, a marvellous little place, but now it has been displaced at the top of my list by Holy Island, aka Lindisfarne (not to be confused with the 1970s folk/rock group of the same name), off the coast of Northumberland, not far from the Scottish border.

Staying overnight in the Old Manor House, right next to the ancient priory, was a great experience. The weather was glorious and that meant plenty of opportunity to explore the main sights, even though time ran out before it was possible to roam to some of the less visited parts of the island.

Holy Island is a place of pilgrimage, and no wonder. I found it utterly fascinating. I am not aware that it has featured in any mystery novels, though perhaps Ellis Peters or Peter Tremayne may have set medieval stories there. But it would be a perfect setting for a modern day mystery in the classic mould.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I love islands, too! These pictures are wonderful...thanks for sharing them.

Sometimes I wish I could write somewhere as peaceful as an island. Sigh!

Mystery Writing is Murder

Martin Edwards said...

A wish that I share, Elizabeth!

Paul Beech said...

As a Lancashire lad in the 50s, I dreamt not of becoming an engine driver or playing for Bolton Wanderers one day, but of owning and occupying my own small island – an ambition no doubt inspired by Enid Blyton’s ‘The Island of Adventure,’ a gripping yarn that also kindled an unhealthy interest in counterfeiting (not something we read much about in crime fiction these days).

Later, at grammar school, I read Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’ and I’m not sure that wasn’t a partial antidote! If this didn’t do the trick then the 1973 horror movie ‘The Wicker Man’ certainly did! Brilliant screenplay by Anthony Shaffer, with Edward Woodward unforgettable as the celibate, devoutly Christian Sergeant Howie, who flies to the remote Hebridean island of Summerisle to investigate the disappearance of young Rowan Morrison. Sir Christopher Lee utterly sinister as Lord Summerisle, who leads the island community in practising “the old religion,” a highly erotic form of Celtic paganism; Britt Ekland never so sexy as here playing the temptress Willow. The climax must be amongst the most terrifying ever screened.

So – “…tranquil, yet full of mystery”? Of course I know what you mean, Martin. And “a modern day mystery in the classic mould” set on Holy Island would be good. Something mid-way between Midsomer and Summerisle? Maybe you could do for the Farne Islands what your Murder Squad colleague Ann Cleeves has done for the Shetlands? A new series?



Martin Edwards said...

Hi Paul. Our reading and viewing have followed a very similar pattern! The Wicker Man was partly filmed at Culzean Castle, on the west coast of Scotland - an impressive National Trust property and one I much enjoyed visiting some years back.

Julia Buckley said...

Gorgeous pictures, Martin!

Jodie Robson said...

I did read a rather strange mystery/ghost story set on Holy Island but I can't remember much about it, except that it was written by a local, and not terribly good. Not someone from the Island, itself, they wouldn't - they are very private, and I suspect weren't very pleased about it, so tread carefully if you decide to set one of your books there, Martin!

It is absolutely my favourite castle, and my final landmark before home on my way back from London on the train.

Martin Edwards said...

Yes, Geranium Cat, I will tread with care!