Book Review

The Ice Twins by SK Tremayne

We are a shameful couple. Dreadful people. The worst parents of all. We lost one daughter to a fall and somehow we are losing the other.

We deserve all of this.

Are you intrigued yet?

The Ice Twins by SK Tremayne is superbly fucking creepy. This is a book that either you’ll really love or you’ll hate passionately, and it all depends on your ability to withstand the spooky-level. We’re not talking about guts and serial killers here, but Hitchcock WTF is going on here sort of dread. Also: not a romance.

This book was totally up my alley, but when I described the plot to the rest of The Bitchery I got a lot of Nopes and NOPENOPENOPE and a Nopetopus gif. When the Nopetopus appears, you know you’ve hit someone’s Challenge Line, as Jackson Galaxy would say.


This psychological thriller is about parents grieving for the loss of their daughter, a desolate Scottish island, and a creepy-as-fuck little girl. The book takes place a year after a terrible accident; six-year-old Lydia Moorcroft fell from a balcony and died while playing with her identical twin sister, Kirstie.

The family is struggling. Parents, Sarah and Angus, aren’t holding up well. Sarah is suffering from some pretty understandable severe depression. Angus copes by drinking and as a result loses his job. The remaining twin, Kirstie, is withdrawn. Because they are basically the WORST FUCKING PARENTS IN THE ENTIRE WORLD, Sarah and Angus decide that the family needs a change of scenery. So they move themselves and Kirstie to this desolate, Gothic Scottish island that Angus inherited from his gran. They are the only people on the island and have to reach the mainland by boat or navigating some sketchy mudflats. The cottage is rickety and in disrepair. GOOD IDEA YOU GUYS. WHY NOT MOVE THE KID NEXT TO THE ABANDONED BROKEN DOLL FACTORY FFS.

Clearly disrupting whatever normalcy Kirstie had to move to the house from The Woman in Black was not an ideal plan. Kirstie, who already wasn’t acting normal at all, now shifts from withdrawn, grieving child straight into super spooky little girl mode. She tells her mother that she is really Lydia, and that it was Kirstie that died.

Sarah starts to come unraveled. She becomes obsessed with the idea that they somehow mixed up their own children, that they’ve been calling their only surviving daughter by the wrong name. She becomes obsessed with proving that Kirstie is really Kirstie, and left alone with her daughter for long periods while Angus works on the mainland, the obsession consumes her.

But oh no, the creepy doesn’t stop there. Fuck no. We’re gonna take this Gothic, scary-little-girl train all the way to the last stop. Kirstie/Lydia starts referring to herself as “we.” The dog acts strangely around the little girl. Then:

Vague creepy spoilers
Making my way into the big bedroom I switch on the pretty feeble side light. There’s a folded note on the bed. A note?

My heart sends out the alarm. The note has big childish letters on the front.

To Mummy.

My fingers are trembling–and I am not sure why–when I open the note and read. And now my heart trembles too.

Mummy. She is in here with us. Kirstie.

So by now you’re either intrigued or you’ve saddled your Nopetopus and rode the fuck outta here. I love books like this: I love the sense of dread you feel when something is just not right. And the thing that The Ice Twins does so well is that there are plausible explanations for what has happened and there are supernatural ones. It’s left largely up to the reader to determine which path they want to follow. Are nefarious shenanigans afoot? Or is Kirstie just a deeply troubled child who is struggling to process her grief?

I also loved the setting. While it made no sense to me for Angus and Sarah to totally uproot their child and take her to the middle of goddamn nowhere, I loved the island. It’s a bleak, windswept sort of place, and Sarah describes its eerie beauty. The island itself is a character in this book, to the extent that I kept Googling the Hebrides and flipping through images and now I totally need to go there. Between this book and Outlander , I might actually forgo a Caribbean vacation in the middle of a Wisconsin winter to go to Scotland.

The author clearly understands how creepy little kids can be too. Remember the Little Sisters from Bioshock? Yeah. Even when they are being adorable, little kids can be freaky.

I can’t really describe this book in too much detail without ruining it. That’s the beauty of the mystery. Each chapter reveals a new layer that subsequently makes you go “Okay, I feel like we resolved some things” and “WTF IS GOING ON AM I CRAZY?” It’s such careful, careful plotting and I applaud Tremayne for it.

Also when I got to the middle and one of the bigger reveals I actually gasped. I kinda saw it coming, but I gasped.

So if creepy little girls and deeply conflicted parents and spooky Scottish islands get your blood pumping, and if you’re not afraid to check the locks a little obsessively, then I highly recommend The Ice Twins. It’ll give you the shivers in the best way.

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The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne

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  1. Leah says:

    Welp, you sold me. I put in a request at our local library! But given that there are only seven copies floating around the whole system (which serves like three dozen branches) and I am in place 13 of 13 active requests, it may be a while.

  2. Oooh, now I like me some horror that’s specifically built around suspense and creepiness. I may have to check this out. 😀

  3. Kim says:

    Barnes and Noble has a free 3-chapter preview for Nook. I downloaded it because I’m a couple weeks away from moving, and doubt my library hold will make it to the top of the list before then!

    Your description really sold me, but I’m concerned that the NOPETOPUS

  4. Kim says:

    *aaaaaah* computer hiccuped and posted my partial comment!

    Anyway, I’m concerned that the Nopetopus will make an appearance, so the preview will give it a chance to show up. If not, then I can go ahead and buy the rest of the book!

  5. Wow! This sounds fantastic. Got it on Audible. eeeeeep

  6. Darlynne says:

    “I might actually forgo a Caribbean vacation in the middle of a Wisconsin winter to go to Scotland.” You will freeze your ass off, no question. I bought an extra fleece jacket when we were in gorgeous Glen Coe in August.

    Yeah, Nopetopus for me. The Bad Seed? Nope. A book whose author and title I’ve scrubbed from memory, wherein two women look back at the death of a younger sibling? Nope. The tension the creepy factor creates is unbearable. Plus, I already know that no one will be in their happy place at the end. But a great review nonetheless.

  7. Kate says:

    Sounds like Lois Duncan on steroids. Sold!

  8. De says:

    Leah – not LVCCLD? I knew I remembered reading info this book and thought I bought it. I looked and I did buy it, and there are 13 ppl on hold for it.

  9. Bu says:

    I had my Nopetopus saddled and ready to ride away…and then something (spooky, sexy Scotland?) changed my mind. So instead, I drove straight to the library, checked out the book, took it home, and read it in one sitting. As you do.

    The setting IS kind of fabulous (in a slow-build, horror-y kind of way), and the parents do make you want to facepalm a lot. (How do you not realize you’re in a Gothic novel making bad, Gothic decisions??)

    The only thing that irked me (and convinced me utterly, and correctly, that the author was male) was…

    [SPOILER]…the moment near the end when Sarah instantly and completely equated her own sexuality/infidelity with motherhood!fail. I just…didn’t buy the deep spiritual sex!guilt as an Automatic Female Thought Process.

    Anyway, thank you, Elyse, for the rec–I never would have reached for a thriller on my own, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one!

  10. Sarita says:

    I sort of have both reactions going at once. Like, I don’t think I could handle reading it, but I kind of want a super spoilery summary a la wikipedia to read, or to have someone lay the plot out for me in detail cuz it does sound fascinating. A lot of my relationship to horror is like that, actually.

  11. Isua says:

    I’m entirely with you, Sarita – I have a pair of twins and the Nopetopus is very very very strong for me on the whole topic of one-twin-mourns-another, and yet now I MUST KNOW what happens!

  12. Kate says:

    So I got this from the library and was enjoying it well enough until about two-thirds in when my personal NOPE! was triggered by the uh, situation with Beany and I had to put it down. I can’t deal with books that use that type of thing for no good reason other than to heighten the sense of dread/disgust/fear/whatever. Other than that, it’s a recommended read for fans of Barbara Vine’s or Minette Walters’ brand of psychological suspense.

  13. Connie says:

    You should have finished! Be any comes back!

  14. Connie says:

    That should be “Beany”

  15. […] “So if creepy little girls and deeply conflicted parents and spooky Scottish islands get your blood pumping, and if you’re not afraid to check the locks a little obsessively, then I highly recommend The Ice Twins.” — Smart Bitches, Trashy Books […]

  16. Arma says:

    Just finished reading this, skipped large parts, where there is atmosphere building only. Much ado about nothing….good writing but not much content to get into! I’m amazed though a man wrote this, and also the fire child (which I enjoyed much more than this book) he captures those feelings of love/ hate between husbands and wives, as well as the maternal bond

  17. Chris says:

    I kind of what to read this, but I kind of don’t. Even if I put on my TBR, I’m not sure I would ever get off the romance train and actually read it.

  18. Sumer says:

    Uhhhhhhhh the chills.I LOVE IT!!!!!

    This book makes me think I’m a masochist.

    Who cares I want this book but I don’t know we’re to order it

  19. […] nach tauglichen Zwillingsgeschichten, hätte mir meine Kollegin womöglich S.K. Tremaynes Thriller The Ice Twins gar nicht erst geschickt. Und obwohl es einer der ganz wenigen Bücher ist, in denen das […]

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