The island can be a paradise, but it can also be a place of danger and isolation. It can be a place where normal codes of behaviour become warped, where communities descend into darkness. The island can become a prison.
And Then There Were None. Christie’s masterpiece. On a hot August day, eight people arrive on an island off the Devon coast, lured there under different pretexts. Then, one by one, someone picks them off. ‘An island was a world of its own,’ Vera observes. ‘A world, perhaps, from which you might never return.’
The Wasp Factory also uses the idea of the island as its own world.
Iain Banks envisaged the fictional Scottish island as a planet, and Frank, the warped 16-year-old protagonist, almost as an alien, both cut off from the rules that apply to the rest of the earth. The result is terrifying and brilliant.
The Woman in Black, Susan Hill. For proof that islands can be extremely creepy look no further than Eel Marsh House, which becomes its own island when cut off by the tide. Solicitor Arthur Kipps’ nightmarish experience there is a brilliant exercise in atmosphere and controlled horror.
Surfacing. Margaret Atwood’s second novel is about an artist who goes in search of her missing father on a remote island in northern Quebec. What you assume will be some kind of mystery novel transforms into something else entirely. Something far more disturbing and clever.
The Black Monastery, Stav Sherez. Nikos, nearing retirement, is brought back to his hometown on the once-idyllic island of Palassos to investigate a gruesome murder with echoes of two murders committed 33 years previously. Claustrophobic, dark and brilliant.
The Blackhouse. Book 1 of Peter May’s excellent trilogy. When a brutal killing takes place on the Isle of Lewis, Fin Macleod is dispatched from Edinburgh to investigate. He is returning to the island of his youth, and to memories that he would rather have kept buried. Fascinating and instilled with menace.
Duma Key, Stephen King. Edgar Freemantle, damaged by a head injury and a broken marriage, moves to the island of Duma Key off the Florida Coast and begins to paint. But as he paints, the island’s secrets begin to stir. Don’t expect to sleep much after this one.
Lie With Me, Sabine Durrant. Professional freeloader Paul insinuates himself onto a family holiday on a small Greek island. Or has he been lured there? In this Patricia Highsmithian psychological thriller, the island is not a paradise, but a trap.
Skin Deep, Liz Nugent. Glamour combines with horror in this gripping tale about the dangerous Cordelia, who returns to her flat to find the flies already buzzing. Set partly on an island off the West coast of Ireland, which comes to represent danger, isolation and untameable nature.
Faultlines, Doug Johnstone. On fictional volcanic island The Inch, Surtsey finds her lover’s body. However, she determines to keep the affair, and her discovery, a secret. An original and elegantly-crafted novel that you’ll read in one sitting.
Anna Mazzola’s second novel, The Story Keeper, out 26 July, explores dark superstitions and missing girls on the Isle of Skye.