Sarah and Angus Moorcroft are ready to start a new life. Angus’s grandmother has left them her cottage, a lightkeeper’s house, on the remote island of Torran near Skye. The tiny island’s shore is sealed by wet sands. The only way to travel between Torran and Skye is by dinghy, the only means to bring in supplies. Torran is a world away from Camden in London but Sarah and Angus have good reason to move. It is a year since one of their perfectly identical twin girls fell to her death from a balcony, in full view of her sister. Kirstie wept for her twin Lydia. But as the months go by with Sarah increasingly clinging to Kirstie for comfort, cut adrift from her husband through grief, Sarah begins to worry. Kirstie is acting oddly. Even the dog is behaving strangely around the little girl. Sarah suddenly understands that they only have Kirstie’s word that it was Lydia who died that terrible day. What if it hadn’t been Lydia? What if Lydia were still alive? Perhaps on the island, away from their memories, everything will be all right.
The Ice Twins is a pageturning psychological thriller. It builds a tense pace through its short sentences, fast dialogue and present tense. Much of the novel is told in the first person by Sarah, an effective way of portraying the turmoil, unhappiness and questions in her mind. Sarah keeps much of what she’s feeling in her head. We are allowed far more insight than her husband who watches on, drinking much more than he should, wanting to do the right thing. But as the novel proceeds the narrative includes sections which focus on Angus. These are in the third person. We’re being kept at a distance. But it becomes increasingly clear that these are two people with very little to tie them together except their love and grief for their daughters.
The fascination with the story lies in the mystery of the Ice Twins. They are ultimately unknowable. It is difficult to enter into that secret world that twins share, even more so when one is lost and a parent is trying desperately to take their place, to provide comfort to the surviving twin. The problem of their identity ebbs and flows throughout the novel and it is intriguingly done. But this is only one part of the book – the relationship between the parents, the setting of this beautiful yet dangerous island, both pull the reader along. The location is well described and adds to the atmosphere of the thriller. Adding to it even more is the creepiness of its mood. There is something of the ghost story about The Ice Twins. It is sinister and threatening, just as the island itself can frighten when the storms arrive.
While I enjoyed The Ice Twins and was happy to be pulled along by it, I did have some issues with it. The writing certainly gives the book an energy but I did find it clunky and abrupt in places, especially the dialogue. More problematic was the fact that I didn’t care for any of the Moorcroft family and I wasn’t sure if that was intentional or not. Both Sarah and, especially, Angus are rather unpleasant and unappealing. The more I discovered of their relationship and attitudes towards one another the less I liked them. That meant that the twists and turns of the plot became increasingly less meaningful or surprising to me.
Nevertheless, The Ice Twins is an entertaining enough thriller. I read it on holiday and it was perfect for that.