The best spine-tingling thrillers set on remote islands

Who am I?

I love dark, creepy stories set on remote islands; I love writing them and I love reading them. There is something about an island that lends itself so well to the thriller. A closed community with its own set of rules, a far-flung location, probably at the vagaries of oceanic weather, poor communications, local people whose loyalties can’t always be trusted, few places to hide. When the sun goes down on an island there is often, quite literally, no way of escape. I’ve set some of my best books on islands (Sacrifice, Little Black Lies, The Split) and love all of the ones on this list. I hope you do too. 

I wrote...

The Split: A Novel

By Sharon J. Bolton,

Book cover of The Split: A Novel

What is my book about?

She’s got nowhere left to hide. 

A year ago, in desperation, glaciologist Felicity Lloyd signed up for a lengthy research trip to the remote island of South Georgia in the Antarctic ocean. It was her only way to escape. And now he’s coming for her. Freddie Lloyd has served time for murder. Out at last, he’s on her trail. And this time, he won’t stop until he finds her. Because no matter how far you run, some secrets will always catch up with you.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Dark Matter

By Michelle Paver,

Book cover of Dark Matter

Why this book?

In 1937, 28-year-old Jack volunteers for a remote expedition to Gruhuken, the former whaling station on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. He, his four companions, and eight huskies journey north through the brief Arctic summer, their spirits high. At first. As winter approaches, Jack’s companions are forced to leave, until he is utterly alone in a land of never-ending darkness. Bad enough, you might think, but as Jack learns, another presence shares his claustrophobic world of night-time, and the sea is icing over. Soon, it will be impossible to leave. Part horror, part ghost story, this is one of the creepiest tales I’ve ever read.  

Shutter Island

By Dennis Lehane,

Book cover of Shutter Island

Why this book?

Where do you site a psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane, with a reputation for controversial research and experimental techniques? A far-flung island, of course. US marshal Teddy Daniels has barely landed on Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of Rachel Solando, a beautiful, enigmatic murderer, before he starts to question everything he is being told. Is someone trying to drive him insane? As a killer hurricane traps Teddy on the island, we start to share his fears. Who is lying to us? Quite possibly, everyone, Teddy included. I adore unreliable narrators and this is gothic psychological horror writing at its best.  

Raven Black: Book One of the Shetland Island Mysteries

By Ann Cleeves,

Book cover of Raven Black: Book One of the Shetland Island Mysteries

Why this book?

On the Shetland Islands, off the northeast coast of Scotland, winter casts an iron-clad hold on both land and people. When dawn breaks on New Year’s Day, the body of a young girl is spotted on the frozen beach, ravens circling in the lowering sky. A scapegoat soon presents itself in the shape of a lonely, mistrusted outcast, but Inspector Jimmy Perez refuses to take the easy way forward. As Jimmy’s search for the truth continues, clues and red herrings drift across the landscape like the gloomy ravens of the title and more than one dark secret waits to be uncovered. My first book was set on Shetland and I’ve long considered it one of the most beautiful and yet, unnerving, places on earth. 


By Ane Riel,

Book cover of Resin

Why this book?

A young girl lives in secret on a lonely Danish island – some time earlier, hoping to protect his daughter from the outside world, her father faked her death. And so she lives, with her increasingly infirm mother, the imagined ghost of her dead brother, and her (as we eventually discover) totally insane father, in a house of accumulated rubbish and rodents. 

I met Ane Riel at a festival in Sweden a couple of years ago and liked her enormously, so was very keen to read her award-winning book. I wasn’t disappointed. It is a deeply original and truly disturbing story.

Mr. Clarinet

By Nick Stone,

Book cover of Mr. Clarinet

Why this book?

Pied Pier, soul stealer, serial killer. Who is Mr. Clarinet? On the island of Haiti – not yet recovered from the sickeningly corrupt rule of Papa Doc Duvalier – children are vanishing amidst rumours of black magic and voodoo. Private investigator, Max Mingus, is hired to track down the son of a wealthy islander. Nick Stone lived for many years in Haiti, and his in-depth knowledge of the place seeps through the book like the blood of its numerous victims. The Haiti of this novel is dark, lawless, dangerous, and utterly fascinating. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in private investigators, explorers, and murders?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about private investigators, explorers, and murders.

Private Investigators Explore 121 books about private investigators
Explorers Explore 68 books about explorers
Murders Explore 338 books about murders

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Little Stranger, The Turn of the Screw, and The Woman in Black if you like this list.