384pp, hardback, £12.99
Reviewed by Alison Burns
If you want a sure-fire film option, this super-spooky tale of a haunted family ticks all the boxes. Set on a largely inaccessible Scottish island, in a semi-derelict house surrounded by treacherous mudflats, with extreme weather, fabulously beautiful views and a cast including guilty parents and entwined identical twins, The Ice Twins explores what can happen when sibling rivalry, marital discontent and shocking bereavement converge.
Troubled thirty-something London professional couple, Meredith and Angus Moorcroft, grab the chance to sell up and get away to remote Thunder Island off the Isle of Skye. With them go their seven-year-old daughter Kirstie who has lost her twin sister Lydia in an appalling accident, and the family dog, Beany.
From the start, the reader is made to feel uneasy. Exploiting all the rules of the uncanny, author Tremayne spins a tale full of ghostly confrontations. Kirstie’s identity is confused: sometimes she talks to Lydia, sometimes she sees Lydia in the mirror, sometimes she says she is Lydia. She has a terrifying recurring dream, and an occasional cold, blank stare. What are we or her parents to believe? Is she being haunted? Which child is she? Is she evil? And what have the parents done?
As Meredith attempts to settle her daughter into school and secretly consults a child psychiatrist, the local children are scared out of their wits by Kirstie-Lydia’s behaviour. They don’t need to be told what a ghost looks like: they can see her. Meanwhile, Angus is endeavouring to keep family life on the rails and food on the table, while watching his wife fall to pieces. It is a switchback ride, with foul weather and growing paranoia clouding everyone’s judgement, and the parents feeling like killing each other.
In the end, of course, guilt turns out to have been piled on guilt, and secrecy with it – sometimes, but not always, with the best intentions. There was never going to be a completely happy ending, but at least this one has an unexpected clever twist.
Read this with a light on, and not when there’s a storm coming.