Horror and Thriller in Time for Halloween - Ghosts and Murder in Two Books: "Eeny Meany", by M.J. Arlidge and "The Ice Twins", by S.K. Tremayne - Book Reviews

Both Eeny Meany and The Ice Twins are set in Great Britain, and both are mysteries. So why not review them together? Both are also hard to put down, but their storylines and tempos are vastly different.

Eeny Meany involves a tough, strong female detective chasing a twisted serial killer who seems to have taken a page out of the “Saw” movies’ playbook. The killer doesn’t actually do the killing, just pits two people against one another with an extreme ultimatum: only one gets out alive.

Author M.J. Arlidge’s scenes of the killer’s prey facing their fates are graphically horrific, but I couldn’t turn away.  The pace of the story is quick, and just when you think the police have a solid line on the killer, it turns out to be a red herring. So, back to speed-reading you go.

The character development is lacking and the relationship between Helen, the main character, and one of her detectives, Mark, is contrived. Particularly the part where she decides she can cure him of his alcoholism by only letting him drink while he is with her. But you don’t read this book for the relationships.

Arlidge ratchets up the intrigue as two of the cop characters become players in the serial killer’s deadly game. As the book churned to an end, I was plowing through it at warp speed. The great reveal was cathartic, and I was ready for a few pages of wrap up to tie together all the loose ends. Instead, I found the last ten or so pages of the book dedicated to a question and answer session with Arlidge.

I was bereft. After such intensity, I needed some time with the characters for the aftermath to unwind. Well-developed or not, after going through the horrors of this story with these characters, I needed insight into at least their near futures. Would they be okay? Probably not, but I needed to know. Rarely do readers complain about a work being too short, but Arlidge gave up good page real estate by failing to include any follow up as to what happened after the mystery was solved.

Author S. K. Tremayne’s The Ice Twins, haunting in a much different way than Eeny Meany, is a ghost story complete with a wind rattled lighthouse cottage on a deserted island wrapped up in a thriller that leaves you guessing until the end.

While living in London, Angus and Sarah Moorcroft have suffered the penultimate tragedy, the death of a child. But suffering even greater is their remaining child, Kirstie, who lost her identical twin sister, Lydia. While the death resulted from a fall, the specifics surrounding the actual event remain in question throughout the book and only Kirstie, the seven-year-old living twin, knows the truth.

Sometime after the death, the living twin begins insisting she is Lydia.

In an effort to escape the grim reality of Lydia’s death and the financial struggles they face in London, the family moves to Torran Island to renovate a lighthouse cottage that has been in Angus’ family for years.  The going will not be easy as the cottage is in major disrepair and is only accessible by boat. But the grief stricken threesome set off with the hopes of finding some solace.

The Ice Twins: A Novel
By S.K. Tremayne

Every few chapters is told from the perspective of either Sarah or Angus, and through their voices the respective perceptions of what has happened and continues to happen in their lives are slowly revealed. And they are drastically different. Sarah tells her story out of grief and fear while Angus is all rage.

Meanwhile, the living twin’s psyche is in jeopardy. Is she Lydia or Kirstie? And what is the explanation for all the otherworldly things that keep happening to the family on the island? Does it all circle back to the twin’s death?

Melancholic throughout, you do not feel much hope for the Moorcrofts as you read. The author even includes photographs of an island and lighthouse on which the fictional island is based. All black and whites and primarily overcast settings, they accentuate the somber tone of the book.   

The story culminates in a huge storm that leaves all three fighting for their lives, both physically and emotionally. While the ending in this book is also abrupt, it feels right. Tremayne has held you in the grasps of the mystery for so long, when the other shoe finally drops you are ready for the explanation. You also don’t need much resolution because it is what the whole book has been slowly roiling towards.

Not usually shocked by endings, this one got me. I did not see what was coming in the denouement – neither the explanation of the twin’s death nor the outcome for the Moorcroft family. While surprising, it made sense and I was comfortable with where Tremayne left me with the characters.

If you are looking for some British intrigue to get you in the mood for the upcoming scare season, these are both good choices.

Eeny Meany
Published: 2015
Publisher: NAL

Elizabeth's rating: 3 stars

The Ice Twins
Published: 2015
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Elizabeth's rating: 4 stars