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by Malcolm Rose
Mike and his friends ignore the clear warning sign. They decide to explore the mysterious island, not knowing just how dangerous it will turn out to be. As they stumble across a deadly secret, they realize they are alone in a race against time… before they become the island’s next victims.
“fast-moving and highly readable”
Books for Keeps - Five star review
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“There’s land ahead!” Mike shouted above the growl of the motor.
“Don’t be stupid,” said Hugh as he steered the boat south. The Scottish island of Mull had disappeared behind them some time ago and they were still a long way from the islands in front. “There’s no land out here. Not according to the map.” Keeping his hands on the wheel, he nodded towards the GPS screen attached to the sunshade, next to the boat’s radio.
Unsteady on his feet, Mike gripped the fibreglass canopy with one hand and pointed with the other. “What’s that then?”
They all screwed up their eyes to peer across the sea. There was certainly something ahead, where there should have been only water and waves.
“Maybe it’s a trick of the light,” said Hugh’s girlfriend, Lauren. “People crossing a desert sometimes see water that’s not there. Maybe we’re seeing land that’s not there.”
“Like we’re all going to see the same mirage,” Annie replied. “Looks pretty solid to me.”
“Now you mention it… But…” Hugh tapped the chart above his head.
“Not on the map, eh?” Mike replied. “Fantastic. We can be the first ever human beings to explore a secret island. Set a new course, captain!”
Annie thumped her brother playfully on the shoulder. “Come on, Hugh. Mike’s right. It’ll be fun.”
It was crazy but, as they got closer, no one could deny that they were approaching an island. It wasn’t enormous and it certainly wasn’t mountainous, but it was there. At a distance, there were no signs of life. No trees, no houses, no movement. There didn’t seem to be any beaches either. It was just a low dome of rock with patchy yellowed grass.
Over and over again, Hugh glanced at the electronic chart as if land might magically appear on it. But it didn’t. He pressed a few buttons on the control panel and then shook his head in disbelief. “That’s the satellite image of where we are. Nothing. I mean, how can a whole island – it must be a couple of kilometres across – not show up? That’s not right.”
The boat rose and fell as its prow cut through each wave. Holding onto Mike’s arm, Annie said, “I heard a rumour that there was a haunted island out here somewhere. A ship got wrecked on it and all the crew were drowned. Everyone keeps away, so they say.”
“Who’s they?” said Hugh.
“You know. The locals,” Annie explained.
“Huh,” Hugh muttered. “Probably the same ones who talk about the Loch Ness monster.”
Mike butted in. “It just keeps getting better. Hidden and haunted!”
“How do you explain the chart?” said Hugh. “It’s just sea.”
Mike shrugged. “Someone’s fiddling with the satellite signal.”
“I don’t know.”
“I do,” Annie said with a big grin. “To keep the island secret.”
Hugh sniggered at the idea, but it was clear from his face that he couldn’t think of a better one.
On holiday in Scotland, Mike had run into Annie and her family five days ago. Even though he was camping in a cheap tent and they were cruising in two boats between posh hotels on the west coast, he’d hit it off with Annie straight away. When Annie, her little brother Daniel, big brother Hugh and his girlfriend Lauren took their motor cruiser out for the day, Annie asked Mike to come too. Mike knew there was another sister as well, but apparently she wasn’t invited – or maybe she just wasn’t interested.
Annie told him that the small motor boat had been a joint birthday present for the four of them from their parents a couple of years earlier. Sometimes, it got left behind and they all went on the big motorized yacht. This time, they’d brought both boats to give them flexibility. Lingering in Oban for a week, Mr. and Mrs. Firth could use the yacht to go in one direction while the youngsters went somewhere else in the motor launch.
To Mike, Annie’s parents seemed very trusting. They expected their kids to stay safe and be responsible. They didn’t check out exactly where they were going or what they were doing. But there was a reason for the trust. Annie had told him that her family took to the sea every school holiday and quite a few weekends if the conditions were good, so the kids were very experienced. Also, the weather forecast for the day was ideal. Besides, they could always make contact over the boat’s radio or use their mobile phones if there was an emergency. On top of that, Mike believed that Hugh had never done anything wrong or risky in his entire life. He was a sixteen-year-old who acted more like he was forty.
Standing apart from the rest of them, Annie’s other brother, Daniel, gripped the rail at the stern and watched the approach to the mysterious, barren island. His face was crinkled with concern. At thirteen, he was younger than the rest. Maybe he also felt out of it because he didn’t have a girlfriend.
A couple of hundred metres from the shore, Hugh let the engine idle while they took a good look. There were some rocky inlets and a few outcrops but nothing that welcomed a boat – not even a small one.
“Let’s land,” Mike said, the excitement clear in his voice.
“Be sensible,” Hugh replied. “It’s not like a bike you just jump off and prop against a wall, you know.”
Annie was examining the shoreline through binoculars. “I can’t see anything… Oh, hang on.” She handed the binoculars to Hugh. “Along there. A few hundred metres. Isn’t that some sort of jetty?”
“Mmm. If it is, it’s knackered.”
“It might not matter,” Annie replied. “Let’s go and find out.”
The motor cruiser rocked gently as Hugh steered it parallel to the shore. Mike kept his eye on the land but he didn’t spot any roads or even tracks. No animals stared back at him or ran away in fright. No birds were squatting in the nooks in the rock face. The place was strangely quiet and still.
Expertly, Hugh manoeuvred the boat alongside what remained of the small wooden jetty. “It’s ruined,” he said.
“But we can still use it,” Annie replied.
“I don’t like the look of it,” Hugh said. “It’s not just rotten. I think it’s been wrecked – deliberately. Someone didn’t want people landing…”
“The sea’s bashed it about a bit, that’s all,” Mike said, not really knowing if it was true but eager to explore.
Lauren pointed to the left. “What’s that, then?”
It was an old warning sign, lying on its side. It was dirty and worn, but part of it was still readable.
Danger. Keep away from this island.
Malcolm Rose was born in Coventry and began his career as a research scientist. He started writing stories while studying for his DPhil degree in chemistry, as a means of escape from everyday life. He is now a full-time writer best known for his gripping scientific thrillers.
He has been awarded the Angus Book Award twice and the Lancashire Children’s Book of the Year.
Visit www.malcolmrose.co.uk to find out more.
Longlisted - Southern School Book Awards 2010
The Southern Schools Book Award is presented annually to the author of the book judged by students to have been the best book published for 13-14 year-olds during the year. Librarians, teachers and students select books for the long list and the final shortlist is announced in June.
Longlisted for the Manchester Book Award 2010
Titles on the long list will be distributed amongst 36 reading groups around Manchester schools and libraries who will vote for the shortlist of six finalists. The finalists will be announced in early December 2009.
Shortlisted - Coventry Inspiration Book Award 2010 - Read It or Else!
Click on the link to vote for Forbidden Island on the Coventry Inspiration Book Awards website.
Listed as 10+ but I'd say it would be equally appropriate for older children. One of the few titles to address environmental issues, a short text packing in a hell of a plot - good for girls too this one.
Sue Baker - The Bookseller - Top teenage crime and thriller titles
Forbidden Island is a very good thriller, fast-moving and highly readable. It is also a thoughtful and effective parable of modern Britain.
Books for Keeps - Five star review
A page-turning story...a splendid and very accessible blend of science, history and mystery – cross curricular fiction. Look out for, read and recommend to students.
SecEd (The Voice for Secondary Education)
Malcolm Rose’s fiction is an intriguing adventure story that would make an interesting addition to topics on the Second World War or islands. With its serious but uncomplicated plot and language it is an easy and fast paced read.
Science, history and mystery collide in breathtaking fashion in this chilling and spine-tingling conspiracy thriller where cover-ups abound. Inspired by a real island in Scotland used for anthrax testing, this eerie and contemporary thriller will keep readers on the very edge of their seat, in the style of Malcolm Rose's acclaimed "Kiss of Death".
Rose's novel is grounded firmly in the real world, a refreshing change from the now almost regulation magical fantasy fare of so many children's novels, and as such is a true lesson in life for young readers. With a cracking plot, a cast of believable characters and a history lesson hidden in the story, this is a top class book for readers both young and old.
Lancashire Evening Post (Click to read more.)
Still with science, but this time much closer to reality, is Malcolm Rose's Forbidden Island, which starts like a modern take on the Famous Five when a group of youngsters sail happy and unsupervised around the Scottish Islands. Then they find an island with warning signs that they ignore. This, like the real-life Gruinard until 1986, is a place contaminated with anthrax. But, unknowing, they land - with foreseeable results and some sinister attempts to stop them.
Independent on Sunday
What starts as a traditional adventure story - four wealthy kids go out on their boat and discover an island unmarked on their maps - soon develops into a much more complex and chilling thriller. Based on the true story of Gruinard island off Scotland, this pacy read asks uncomfortable questions.
Daily Mail, London
This fine book is set in Scotland and the children, Mike, Hugh, Daniel and Lauren have a great adventure. This is the "boy's own" idea brought bang up to date and a great introduction to the thriller genre for a younger generation of avid readers.
There is nothing new about strange, undiscovered islands which pose a threat but also carry an allure for unsuspecting or foolhardy children. But is there? Forbidden Island could just be different: it is based on real science and the story is influenced by the actual history of Gruinard, a Scottish island which was a threat until very recently...This book will not disappoint. It is a fast-moving thriller, eminently readable, while it also presents a thoughtful look at our world today. Malcolm Rose has a gift of making history, science and mystery accessible to secondary school readers, while at the same time keeping them totally enthralled.
School Library Association in the School Librarian journal
Forbidden Island is a mystery novel, inspired by the history of a Scottish Island called Gruinard. We follow the story of five brave teens who find a mysterious island invisible from maps and screened from satnav. The mystery begins when the five friends discover the island off the coast of Scotland. Once they realise that they are on their own on this island, they begin to put together the truth. The characters in this book are very interesting. I enjoyed this book because I wanted to keep reading it just to see what would happen next. I would highly recommend this book to everyone because it was very interesting. I think it is suitable for children between the ages of 9 and 14.
Evening Echo (Cork)
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