The stories we’re told as children often have, at their heart, a lesson, or a darkness that that has been diluted, made easier to digest. Johnstone’s Mirrorland takes both these elements for her central elements, creating a modern thriller which taps into the fears and dangers of childhood. When Cat learns that her twin sister, El, is missing, she returns to the childhood home they fled 12 years earlier in order to support El’s husband, Ross, in the search. It’s clear from the outset that the girls had run away from this home all those years earlier, and Johnstone does an excellent job of slowly feeding us information about Cat’s past.
What I particularly loved about this read, the many twists and turns aside, was the layers of narratives the girls and their mother have created for themselves as Cat and El grew up. Captain Henry, The Tooth Fairy, clowns, Andy Dufresne, and Bluebeard all feature in the girls’ childhood stories. The house itself, ‘Mirrorland’, becomes a character in itself, becoming a space of both imaginative escape and fear. On her return, Cat learns, much to her surprise, that El and Ross chose to buy the house back when it came on the market and it is where the grown-up version of their childhood games will now play out.
And let’s just talk about those twists and turns – without actually talking about those twists and turns! Man, this is tense at times – the issue with stories is that you never quite know whose story to believe, but you know the narrative has a reason, a point to it, and this is another strand Johnstone does so well. Like Cat, you’re forced to become sleuth, to piece things together, and it all makes for a very gripping read. Highly recommended for all those who like their stories dark and twisted.
Twelve years ago my life began again.
But it was a lie.
With the startling twists of Gone Girl and the haunting emotional power of Room, Mirrorland is the story of twin sisters, the man they both love, and the dark childhood they can’t leave behind.
Cat lives in Los Angeles, about as far away as she can get from her estranged twin sister El and No. 36 Westeryk Road, the imposing gothic house in Edinburgh where they grew up. As girls, they invented Mirrorland, a dark, imaginary place under the pantry stairs full of pirates, witches, and clowns. These days Cat rarely thinks about their childhood home, or the fact that El now lives there with her husband Ross.
But when El mysteriously disappears after going out on her sailboat, Cat is forced to return to the grand old house, which has scarcely changed in twenty years. No. 36 Westeryk Road is still full of shadowy, hidden corners, and at every turn Cat finds herself stumbling on long-held secrets and terrifying ghosts from the past. Because someone—El?—has left Cat clues all over the house: a treasure hunt that leads right back to Mirrorland, where she knows the truth lies crouched and waiting…
A sharply crafted mystery about love and betrayal, redemption and revenge, Mirrorland is a propulsive, page-turning debut about the power of imagination and the price of freedom. Perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn, Ruth Ware, and Daphne du Maurier.
About the Author
Carole Johnstone is an award-winning writer from Scotland, whose short stories have been published all over the world. Mirrorland, a psychological suspense with a gothic twist, is her debut novel.
Having grown up in Lanarkshire, she now lives in the beautiful Argyll & Bute, and is currently working on her second novel: a very unusual murder-mystery, set in the equally beautiful Outer Hebrides.
Length: 320 Pages
Age/Genre: Adult Thriller
Publishing: 20th April 2021