Creepy children, and indeed twins, are not a new idea – they appear in countless films and books as a classic scary, horror motif, and aren’t very original. And yet they are still creepy, and probably always will be. In The Ice Twins S. K. Tremayne (the “pseudonym of a journalist and bestselling writer”, according to the Harper Collins website) carefully uses twins to create a deep sense of unease and doubt, and to great effect. There are several moments of genuine eeriness and uncanniness, and the amount of psychological pain the characters go through creates an atmosphere to rival some of the best horror – and yet… and yet this novel does not quite hit the mark. As I say there are some parts that are really very good, and the plotting is done extremely well, with the truth being eked out little by little from the characters. But The Ice Twins is not a resounding success.
There is an awful lot of clunky and contrived writing, sometimes in snippets and sometimes for whole pages. It starts early on, when our narrator Sarah reminisces about when she met her husband: “Angus had a tinge of stubble when we first met, and I liked that; I liked the way it emphasised his jawline…” These were moments that I just couldn’t take seriously, that made me think, no one talks like that. Unfortunately this happens throughout the book, and sometimes ruins some excellent scenes.
There are also an alarming amount of brand names, which I found jarring. Sarah and Angus’ daughter Kirstie seems to be surrounded by them – Wimpy Kid, Charlie and Lola, and One Direction (a specific song is even named) are all mentioned over and over again, and Sarah’s narration is overly specific about which particular bit of London or Scotland they are in. The overly specific nature of these details robs the story of some of its charm, and rather than just relating the story to the real world, which could be good, it seems like Tremayne is trying too hard to make the characters and their life seem real. I found it very distracting, and it took away from the creepy sense of mystery, particularly with Kirstie.
For there is of course the question of whether or not Kirstie is really Kirstie. The fact is she might be Lydia. Sarah and Angus might not really know which of their daughters died. A seed of doubt is planted in their minds, and in the mind of the reader too. Despite my criticisms, I will admit that I could not quite guess what was going on in The Ice Twins, and what the conclusion would be. Wanting to know was what kept me reading, and I was genuinely intrigued. I was willing to battle past the sometimes clunky writing, and the irritating Sarah, to find out what really happened. It was an ending I didn’t expect, and I like the way that information was given out slowly, the picture building gradually. Really, this is a very good story, a very interesting idea, but the problem is in the execution. Instead of being a masterful thriller that could be excellent as a film, The Ice Twins falls short and is more of trip down misery lane, basking in one family’s unhappiness. Read it for the mystery and the suspense, but don’t expect too much.
Published on 29th January 2015 by Harper Collins (UK). My thanks to the publisher for the review copy.