The Ice Twins – S.K. Tremayne

Product Details

 

Out 29th January.

This is the perfect book to read on a really chilly winter’s night. It’s the story of the Moorcroft family. Angus and Sarah were the parents of two beautiful blonde-haired, blue-eyed twins, Kirstie and Lydia. However, after a tragic accident at Sarah’s parent’s house, Lydia fell from a balcony to her death. Eighteen months on, the family are all struggling, individually, with their grief. Kirstie is, understandably, bereft without her twin sister; her other half. Sarah feels guilty as she had thought the girls were outside playing, until she heard the screams. And Angus feels guilty as he was late getting to Sarah’s parents’ that weekend. After a lot of alcohol, combined with guilt and anger, he punches his boss at the architects’ practice where he works, and is sacked. The Camden home he and Sarah had bought for their family life is now unaffordable. But there is another option on the (far) horizon: Angus’s grandmother has died, and left Angus and his brother Eilean Torran (Thunder Island), just off Skye. His brother lets Angus keep the whole legacy; he lives in the States and is doing well. Angus has wonderful memories of childhood and teenage summers spent on the island, and persuades Sarah that a fresh start, away from all the bad memories, is exactly what the family need. The house hasn’t been lived in for some time, and is pretty delapidated, but once they pay their debts off, they reckon they should have enough cash to rebuild it. Angus intends to look for work as an architect in the area, and Sarah, a freelance journalist, hopes to do some part-time work from there too.

However, before they even move, Kirstie has a revelation. She claims not to be loud, mischievous Kirstie (her father’s favourite), but bookish, quiet Lydia, who is more like her mother, and is her favourite. It’s certainly not impossible, as the twins were utterly identical – not a mole, nor a freckle, differentiated them. Did they make an assumption, after the accident, that their daughter has hitherto been frightened to correct? Or is this part of her mourning process – is she unable to let her sister go? Sarah starts to notice things that could indicate that her surviving daughter is Lydia – for example, their spaniel, Sawny Bean, or Beanie, reacted differently to each girl. And the way he’s behaving now is how he behaved with Lydia. Or could he just be atuned to a mourning child? And there are no definitive scientific tests which will reveal which daughter survived.

With this revelation hanging over them they head north. Eileen Torran is very remote: at low tide it’s possible to walk across the mudflats, but the rest of the time a boat is required to reach the island. The house is in a dreadful state: freezing cold, full of rats, filthy…And Beany is clearly unsettled in his new home, as is Kirstie (who they have now decided is Lydia) – she keeps saying that her dead twin hasn’t left her, and talks away in the strange nonsensical way she did with her dead sister. When she does this in her new school, it results – not surprisingly – in the other children being terrified of her, and she is unable to settle or make any friends. The school ask the Moorcrofts to remove their daughter for a short time, until things are calmer. Meanwhile, revelations about Angus’s relationship with Sarah’s hitherto best friend fracture the marriage further, as does Angus’s continued reliance on alcohol. Sarah eventually asks Angus to spend a couple of nights elsewhere, while she and Lydia remain on Eilean Torran alone, despite being told this is unwise, because of the impending storm. Sarah wants the time to consider what to do about other dreadful things she has convinced herself Angus has done. And then the storm hits the island…Sarah and Kirsty are trapped there, with their telephone down. The boat has been washed away. Angus is similarly stranded across the Sound…And Sarah becomes convinced she and her daughter are not alone on Eilean Torran…

This is one of these books where the sense of menace and impending doom winds faster and faster, until you can’t bear to put the book down – it demands you to read on, to discover what other dreadful things are in store. In this respect, it reminds me just a little of The Shining (remote setting, possible mental disturbances, being trapped by the weather, creepy twins..!) I’ve no idea who SK Tremayne is (it’s a pseudonym), but it’s difficult to believe this isn’t the work of an experienced author, judging by the skilful way s/he ratchets up the tension (although I suspect it’s a he!) The isolated, claustrophobic setting is also absolutely ideal. And it’s clearly an area the author knows well, and loves – s/he also understands the issues facing Scotland’s beautiful rural areas – the incomers, pricing locals out of the housing market; the locals, still struggling to eke a living fishing, and crofting, and farming; the local pubs, transforming themselves into seafood restaurants to appeal to the Southerners with plenty of money…I know Peter May’s Lewis Trilogy was set on the Outer Hebrides, which are less accessible and so less attractive to those seeking a weekend or holiday bolthole, but Tremayne’s depiction of modern Hebridean life chimed more closely with my experience.

In one respect, this is a book about the secrets that exist within families, sometimes as a (possibly misguided) way of protecting others – and their opinion of us. It’s about how, despite our best efforts, we can end up repeating the mistakes our parents made. It’s also about guilt, and grief, and the unreliability of memory. To reiterate, this is perfect winter reading. Just don’t bank on getting a lot of sleep once you’ve started it…

4.5 out of 5

I received a digital ARC courtesy of NetGalley and publishers HarperCollins.

Have you read The Ice Twins? Or do you fancy it? Let me know your thoughts on my review, the book, or any book-related matters – I love to hear from you!

43 thoughts on “The Ice Twins – S.K. Tremayne

  1. Oh, this really sounds compelling!! The setting, the context and those questions about which twin really died and what the survivor’s actions may mean, all pique my interest. And what I’m also noticing is that it seems that the author doesn’t rely on gore or explicitness to raise the tension and suspense – that it’s more psychological. That to me is a plus. Glad you enjoyed it!

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    • Yes Margot, it is very much a psychological thriller. And it’s a relief to not be reading about women being murdered in increasingly elaborate ways! You are also questioning throughout which parent is the less guilty party – because despite it being an accident, they are both guilty of some things. It’s so difficult to get the balance right between supervising children, and not wrapping them up in cotton wool…and when accidents happen, of course parents blame themselves. This is an examination, I guess, of the worst possible scenario when you are distracted – for whatever reason…And I suppose I’m biased, but I loved the setting!

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      • Oh, the setting appeals to me, too! And yes, I’m a bit done with the ‘series of women being killed in bizarre ways’ plot point. Nice to see other interesting plots getting attention. As to parenting? There is no easy way I think to decide where that fine line is between protecting one’s children and overprotecting them. Parenting is, I often think, full of second-guessing, and I can only imagine how much of that happens when there is a tragic accident.

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      • When I think of how we were allowed to roam all over the hills, building dens, and no-one cared as long as we appeared for dinner, I realise how much things have changed in 30-40 years. Of course, we would never have been allowed to behave like that if we hadn’t lived in SUCH a rural area! And even if you are very protective, there can still be a freaky event that you could never predict. Plus over-protectiveness will inevitably result in rebellion. It’s a very fine line, and so difficult to get right. Like everything else, all we can do is our best.

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    • It isn’t as good as The Shining, but it is similar in certain ways, as I mention. But it’s a very good example of a commercial psychological thriller. I can see it doing exceptionally well. I don’t actually think I’d like to be a twin (particularly after reading this!)

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  2. I do like the sound of that: love claustrophobic, remote settings, especially in winter. And am of course fascinated by twins (isn’t everyone?). I remember being intrigued and shocked by The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield.

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    • I haven’t actually read The Thirteenth Tale – I saw it on TV last Christmas (great adaptation, with Vanessa Redgrave and Olivia Colman) and thought I’d wait until the story had faded from my mind, then I’d read the book. I did enjoy Bellman And Black, though. And I agree, twins are fascinating. The telepathy we associate with them is probably the closest we come to the supernatural, and that intrigues everyone. I’m like Edith Wharton – I don’t believe in ghosts, but I’m afraid of them!

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  3. I am so looking forward to this book. I read about it on another blog a while back and thought it sounded really interesting. Now, your review has made me want it right away. It won’t be published here in the US until May, but I can be patient as long as I make a note of it.

    Love the setting. I’ve loved Peter May’s trilogy (well, the first two I’ve read) set in the Outer Hebrides. Such a bleak setting and it adds to the storyline. I can see how the same might be true here and, really, you had me at THE SHINING. One of my favorite books of my youth. My father was a twin and sometimes they are a bit uncanny. We visited the hotel that King’s book was modeled on – beautiful and creepy. Not really, but just in my eyes. Those topiary animals. Brrr.

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  4. The first time I saw the film I was 16 and I didn’t sleep A WINK all night. I’m not good with anything scary; my imagination runs riot – my children found my aversion to horror films hilarious when they were 15 or 16. The book and film are each scary in their own way. Personally, I’ve always found anything that deals with the line between sanity and insanity scarier than any serial killer, blood ‘n’ guts stuff – because it deals with the basest human fear – losing our sanity. This isn’t a classic, like The Shining, but many of the same tried-and-tested scary themes from it are used here too.

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    • Thanks Cleo! A great deal of the book is about lies and misunderstandings and members of the family trying to protect one another, which paradoxically makes things worse, and it leaves you constantly changing your opinion over what’s going on – I think it’ll probably be right up your street…well, I hope so, anyway!

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    • It’s great, isn’t it Christine? These isolated communities are perfect for this sort of thing. If I was going to write something, I’d probably use such a setting, as I grew up in a pretty isolated spot, and they always say you should write what you know! The tension in the book ratchets tighter and tighter – I actually didn’t want it to end! I was looking out for a review from you, as I was pretty sure you’d have picked this one out! (Great minds and all that!)

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      • A small cast of characters in a remote place is my idea of the perfect read. It really was great. You grew up in a place like that? Wow. I grew up in a northern village not at all isolated. I’m not sure I could manage that kind of isolated… Great minds :)))) I think this book will be really popular.

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      • Yes, I grew up in the Isle of Mull, which is 40 minutes on the ferry from Oban – it’s 100 miles from Glasgow. Then my parents’ farm is 23 miles from the pier (half of it single track!) There’s one pub and one shop-cum-postie in the village about a mile from the farm. So not as bad as Eilean Torran, but still pretty far from civilization! Great when you’re a kid, but when you’re a teenager you can’t wait to get away. It’s not so isolating nowadays with the internet; back then it was catalogue clothes, no magazines, really hard to get new music cassettes. Perfect place for a bookworm kid though (the village actually had a bookshop, where I used to work, but it closed when the owner retired. I SO loved that shop!)

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      • I just looked it up. That is so far up north. I cannot imagine a life, where you cannot just pop to the shop or visit a big city easily. I bet it’s gorgeous there! You were lucky you had that bookshop. Did you go to school on Mull?

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      • Yes, there was 30 in the whole of my primary school (3 in my class!) and 100 in the entire secondary, although the secondary will be bigger now. It was actually quite a good school – still is! It is nice there; millions of holidaymakers in the summer to see all the wildlife (and Balamory fans – it was filmed in Tobermory, the main town on the island.)

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    • Thanks Jenny! I just checked out your review, which is great, plus I love finding new blogs with similar tastes! I think this’ll definitely have put off anyone who dreams of moving to a remote corner of Scotland! I liked the ending too (although I was gutted when I finished it); it worked perfectly. Hopefully we’ll get more from the mysterious SK Tremayne.

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  5. I loved this novel too, I read it with the snow falling outside my windows, it was even creepier… Like you, I thought a bit about the Shining while I read it, and also about “I remember you” by icelandic author Yrsa Sigurdardottir ( another really great spooky novel, by the way!)

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    • I’ll have to check that one out – I’ve got Ashes To Dust to read, but my TBR list is terrible. But I’ll put that on my Wish List! I do love a creepy read in the winter; it’s just the weather for it – and its so dark all the time!

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      • Now you’ve tempted me into doing that fatal thing of downloading a sample of the book, which always ends at a crucial point, so you have to buy to keep reading! I’m very much in the mood for creepy stuff at the moment – it’s the winter weather and dark nights – so that sounds just the ticket!

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  6. I haven’t seen that one – in fact, Cheech and Chong are a real blast from the past – from my misspent youth; well, I was studying. Although I didn’t get an awful lot of studying done for much of the time. My flatmates partied hard, and I didn’t need much persuasion to join them…!

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    • Thanks Laura! You’ll enjoy it if you fancy something wintry and creepy (and you like being kept up late reading “just a few more pages…” – I fell asleep holding my Kindle at 4am this morning; feel really awful today, obviously!) Do let me know what you think of it.

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