Author of the Month

Name: S.K. Tremayne

First Novel: Absent Fathers (as Sean Thomas)

Most Recent Book: The Ice Twins

' of those books that you will spend time thinking about once you have finished it.'

A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.

But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity – that she, in fact, is Lydia – their world comes crashing down once again.

As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, Sarah finds herself tortured by the past – what really happened on that fateful day one of her daughters died?

The majority of ‘The Ice Twins’ is written from the perspective of Sarah. Throughout their lives, Sarah had been unable to identify each twin, so Kirstie's announcement brings confusion and Sarah is suddenly unsure as to which twin has died.

Tremayne managed to convey not only the grief and sadness at the loss of a child, but also the guilt and happiness when it is thought that a child that was being mourned is actually alive.

The story is very well written, leading this reader with suggestions of things to come. The same suggestion is used to form the reader's opinion of each of the characters and their motives. However, much of this is very clever suggestion and towards the end of the book my thoughts towards the characters changed considerably - from sympathy to dislike and full circle to sympathy again.

This is a very cleverly written book and even though there was a lot of misleading by the author, it was extremely well done and only added to the suspense and enjoyment. A good twist at the end makes ‘The Ice Twins’ one of those books that you will spend time thinking about once you have finished it. This was a great read that was absorbing and chilling in equal measures. Certainly a book I will be recommending!

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating


1) This is a new departure for you. Why the change in direction?
I was writing, as Tom Knox, in the very high concept, trans-global, “religious thriller” genre: where at the end you get some huge overarching conspiracy, dramatically revealed, explaining a chunk of history or human behaviour. I loved writing in this genre, because I love history, archaeology and big fat secrets. Also the books were popular, worldwide. It’s nice to be translated into Korean, Hebrew and Polish.

However by the last book, ‘The Deceit’, I felt I’d reached a natural end: I explained all religion as a kind of parasitic cerebral virus. There’s not much more you can say, after that. It was time to move on. Though Tom Knox may return, one day...
2) You have used another pseudonym for this novel? Was there a particular reason why you did not use your previous nom de plumes?
I write in so many different genres if I wrote under one name then I am sure readers would get confused. I write journalism – travel, art, politics – under my own name, Sean Thomas. I also wrote literary fiction under my real name. Tom Knox was a big departure: major commercial thrillers, it needed a new pseudonym.

Now I am writing taut, slightly more ‘literary’ thrillers – with domestic contexts and locations - intense family dramas. Again they are so different to my prior work I felt a new name was required. A Tom Knox fan expecting to see all of Buddhism decoded as a mind-altering drug would be very surprised to find me writing about eerie marital discord in a kitchen with a lonely child on a beach.
3) Why did you use twins? Is there some connection with you that made you settle on twins?
I have very personal reasons for writing about twins, especially twins who are somehow ‘ghosts’ of each other, who can’t quite see each other, but the reasons are so personal I am unable to say any more: it’s not entirely my story to tell. Sorry.
4) The emotion throughout the book was very well telegraphed to me and very well portrayed. The guilt of losing one child with the joy of finding the other has survived was very strong and tangible. How did you research such a traumatic event and tap in to the emotional state of the parent/sibling?
This again is personal testimony, but I can be more candid. About ten years ago someone very close to me in my family, lost a child. So I saw, with my own eyes, what that awful kind of tragedy does to a family, how the grief and the guilt roll on through the years, like endless ripples, doing damage a decade down the line. It was perhaps cathartic to put it down on paper. Maybe this is what makes it feel "real" in the book.
5) Having read ‘The Ice Twins’ I wondered if some of your characters had always been clear to you from the start or did they evolve over time? I ask as some of the characters seem to not only change throughout the telling of your story, but also changed their stance or perception.
I had the plot quite carefully mapped out: something I have belatedly learned is very useful, especially when writing plot-driven novels (it sounds obvious, but it wasn’t to me, years ago). However, yes, I found my characters doing things I hadn’t planned halfway through – but in a good way. That is, suddenly I would think, Ah, Angus can do this, indeed he would do this, and it makes the plot even ‘twistier’ and, I hope, more gripping. That was a nice feeling.
6) There is a supernatural twist in ‘The Ice Twins’. Was this always going to be the case? Are you intrigued by the supernatural?
I wanted the book to have a faint sense of the supernatural, without tipping over into outright ghost story. All the way through the book, it is gently suggested, or uneasily hinted, that there might be a supernatural explanation, but no more than that. My idea was that this is actually more unnerving that rattling skeletons and moaning ghouls. I wanted just the sense of ‘something not quite right’. I do have a personal interest in the supernatural: though I am also agnostic. I really do not know.
7) With the advent of ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ we are seeing the advent of the psychological novel again but looking at relationships within the family. What is it, do you think, that makes the homestead such a breeding ground for novels of suspense?
Because families are such brilliant places for drama! Scenes of horror and strife, hatred and fear, loathing and secrecy, and that’s just over the Christmas holidays. I don’t think this is a new thing. The domestic/family setting has been used by novelists for horror, comedy, drama and mystery for centuries - from du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ to Jane Austen. ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is a tense mystery novel in a domestic setting: who is the real Darcy?
8) Despite being a seasoned reader, you handled the misdirection extremely well and the ending, even for me, was a complete surprise. Did you have a clear ending in mind before you started or was it a more organic process where the people involved led you to the conclusion?
The ending was clear to me from the start. Endings are so important, a bad ending can seriously taint a good novel, a great ending can raise a mediocre novel to being very memorable. I just watched Clint Eastwood’s new film, ‘American Sniper’. It’s a good, but not great war movie, but it is incredibly moving. You come out of the cinema silent and moved. So your impression of the film is improved by that one great ending.
9) For writers who are just starting out on their ‘novel journey’, what one piece of advice would you give?
Write every day. Boring, but true. Even if it is just 100 words. Get it down. And don’t look ahead and think ‘Oh my god I’m never gonna reach 100,000 words’ (or whatever).Think of it as walking a tightrope – don’t look down, just do one step at a time. Or maybe think of it as swimming laps. 50 laps is boring if you take it as whole. So just keep saying one more lap, one more lap, then, all of a sudden, you’ve done 50. And the novel is written.
10) Are you a fan of crime fiction in general? What would you say are the top three crime novels that have made a lasting impression on you?
I’m not an obsessive fan of crime writing in itself, partly because – very frustratingly – I get less time to read novels these days as I have to read so much non-fiction for my research. But over the last decade I absolutely loved Donna Tartt’s ‘The Secret History’; I thought Gillian Flynn’s first novel, ‘Sharp Objects’, was as beautifully written as it was disturbing; and I much admired Peter Hoeg’s ‘Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow’, which, people forget, is a murder mystery.