by Rana Asfour
Angus (Scottish) and Sarah Moorecroft (half-English, half-American) sell their London home and move, with their twin daughter, Kirstie and dog Beany, to live in a light-keeper’s cottage located on the Gaelic ‘barely habitable island’ of ‘Eilean Torran’, (meaning Thunder Island) which Angus inherited from his grandmother. The move comes eighteen months after the tragic death of one of their twin daughters, Lydia, who fell from her grandparents’ top floor balcony in Devon while the family was there on holiday.
Since then Angus, an architect, has lost his job, and turned to drink to drown his sorrows although ‘a raging fire of anguish that could not be quenched, even with a bottle of whiskey a night, much as he tried’ continues to burn fiercely inside him. He is unusually keen to shuttle the family away as quickly as possible from London, and particularly from the police. Sarah, a freelance writer, has gone from ‘virtually a stage mother’ with tourists pointing at her beautiful perfect family to a woman who has spent most of the previous year ‘crying endlessly and wordlessly, night after night’. A part of Sarah blames herself for the event as she was supposed to be watching the children that night while her husband was away and yet she cannot quite seem to comprehend the details that lead to the accident. The surviving twin daughter, Kirstie, is suffering from depression and anxiety and has been locked ‘in an abyssal isolation of her own’ after the anguish of ‘losing her identical twin, her second soul’. Nicknamed the ‘Ice Twins’ by their family and the ‘Mischief Sisters’ by their friends at school, seven-year-old Kirstie is finding life very hard after Lydia’s death. What makes it even harder is that Kirstie had been on the balcony with her twin when she fell.
So, with the Moorcroft’s life in pieces, psychologically and financially, Angus and Sarah feel that their move to the remote island is just what is needed to bring the family together again in a bid to regain happiness and normalcy. Expectedly, things don’t quite work out that way and their difficulties on the island seem to increase rather than disappear as they had hoped. Besides the dismal shape they find the house in, and the atrocious Gaelic winds and constant rain, their surviving daughter’s psychological state seems to be rapidly deteriorating as she is convinced that her twin sister is not dead, but in fact lives with them in their new home. She starts to address herself as ‘we’ and has taken on most of the characteristics of her deceased twin. In a horrific moment, that sets the scene for what is to follow, she reveals to Sarah that a mistake had been in identifying the identity of the dead twin and that it was in fact ‘Kirstie’ that had died, not her twin ‘Lydia’. Kirstie has not fit well into her new environment and has made no friends at her new school and her classmates have started to nickname her ‘the ghost’. Matters are made worse when a play date on the island goes bone-chillingly wrong.
And so ‘stranded’ on their isolated island, in a house believed by the locals to be haunted, surrounded by dangerous mudflats (they need a boat to get to the mainland) the Moorecrofts are left to themselves to pick up the remnants of the their life. Readers start to learn more about Angus and Sarah; the details of their relationship, the similarities in their past (she with her domineering loud dad, him with his wife-beating one) and the niggling anxieties they harbor concerning the night that Lydia died as they each narrate their side of the story. Blame is thrown every which way and the details become blurred as Sarah digs up information to try and piece together the sequence of events prior to the accident that ultimately led to the death of her favorite twin.
Expectedly, none of the Moorecrofts are who they seem to be and secrets slowly start to reveal themselves as the reader scrambles to make sense of what is going on (can be very confusing in places) and gets hooked on a ‘whodunit?’ game. The suspense is amazing and the build-up is masterfully done. Readers will not be disappointed.
For fear of giving away too much and ruining the experience (I hate it when reviewers do that spoiler alert thing), I will say no more. It’s enough to say that ‘The Ice Twins’ is a very exciting thriller, spooky, creepy and great for readers who like to work at guessing the ending. Superbly written, with landscape descriptions that are not merely beautiful but they also do a great job in setting the mood and tone, vividly enhancing the imagination and upping the suspense. Brilliant. Loved it.