My book club recently finished The Ice Twins, a psychological suspense thriller by S.K. Tremayne.
A year ago, Sarah and Angus Moore of London lost Lydia, one of their 6 year old twin daughters to an accident. Or was it Kirstie?
For a year, they believed their more reserved, quiet daughter, Lydia (and Sarah’s favorite) had fallen from their grandparent’s balcony. But now their surviving twin Kirstie is asking her mother, “Why are you calling me Kirstie? I’m Lydia.” Kirstie is also behaving differently than she used to: she’s more like Lydia used to be, and even prefers Lydia’s favorite toys.
Still grieving from their tremendous loss, and in some financial straits after Angus has been fired from his architect job after punching his boss, Sarah decides the family needs to get away from the city and relocate to an isolated island in the Hebrides, Scotland, in a house that has been in Angus’s family for generations. Though the landscape is spectacularly beautiful, the house needs a lot of work, and the only way to the island is by boat. Still, Sarah feels hopeful that their family can heal here.
But things only get worse. Enrolled in the local school, Kirstie is shunned by her peers. Friendless and lonely, her behavior only gets more bizarre. She demands more vehemently to be called Lydia, and is observed at school to be talking to someone who is not there–her dead twin. Again and again, my heart broke for this sad little girl, to the point I had to put the book down to wipe my tears away. The suffering of children is not something I can easily handle, and this child wasn’t spared.
Sarah and Angus’s marriage isn’t faring so well, either. Angus clearly has a drinking problem (and Sarah is no teetotaler, either); there is a simmering rage inside the man that is troubling and foreboding, and one senses he’s hiding a secret. The anger is directed at Sarah, and she has no idea why. Sarah, for her part, is a total failure at communication, and harbors secrets of her own.
As events get more bizarre and the tension builds to unbearable levels, the questions keep surfacing: is the child Kirstie or Lydia? Is the child’s behavior a result of psychological trauma, or is there really a ghost among them in this haunting, fabled land (where, one local says, the air is “thin”, as in between the worlds of the living and the dead)? What secrets are both Sarah and Angus harboring, from each other and from themselves? What really happened the day one of the twins fell from that balcony?
I spent most of the book wondering what the heck was going on, and it certainly kept me turning the pages. Its horror creeps up on you, and only gets more intense as the book goes on. The resolution is both satisfying and sad. I felt like I went through the wringer on this one–and that’s when you know you’ve been superbly entertained by a work of fiction.