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 The remaining twin, Kirstie, is withdrawn.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 Kirstie, who already wasn’t acting normal at all, now shifts from withdrawn, grieving child straight into super spooky little girl mode.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:
My heart sends out the alarm. The note has big childish letters on the front.
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.
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.