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.
Twin sisters El and Cat are estranged, with El remaining in Edinburgh, even moving into their childhood home, while Cat lives in Los Angeles. As children they were inseparable, spending most of their time in Mirrorland, an imagery place full of fun and danger. When El disappears, Cat returns home, comforting the grieving widower Ross, a man both women loved. But there’s more in the house, including clues left behind by El, clues Cat must untangle to discover the truth.
Mirrorland is a really engrossing read, crossing the line back and forth between fantasy and reality, constantly making the reader question the truth and keeping them engaged, keen to find out what really happened between the two sisters. The story is full of twists, but twists that work and make sense, rather than feeling forced.
There were points where this book hovered around the 3 or 4 star mark for me, but ultimately the writing, plot and characters made for a solid 5 stars. Cat makes for a really interesting main character, the twin who, it seems, was always left in the shadows of El’s shining light. The quieter, shier twin, but someone who never quite got over the events that led her to leaving Scotland.
She quickly becomes entangled with her past once more, realising as she discovers El’s dairy entries, that she has forgotten more than she remembered. There’s a constant uncertainty to El’s perspective, and Johnstone uses this unreliability to keep the reader on their toes, allowing them, at times, to read between the lines and understand things perhaps on a deeper level than El really does.
We get hints scattered throughout the book, as El dives deeper, tries to untangle what actually happened during their time in Mirrorland. It’s handled really cleverly, and the story definitely has a strong, Gothic feel to it, a sense of horror and haunted houses throughout. In a really good way, it had echoes of the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House. I really liked the unreliable aspect, the way fantasy and reality are blurred, and the way the reality is slowly revealed to the reader.
Cat makes some really not good decisions, but each one gets you deeper under her skin, learning more about her and the effect El and Mirrorland, as well as her mother, really had on her life. At times, she is flawed and unlikeable, and the story is that much stronger for it.
If you’re looking for a dark, twisty thriller that keeps you begging for answers, Mirrorland is here for you. It’s a fantastic book that I thoroughly enjoyed, and as always, I am so grateful to The Write Reads for including me on this tour, and to Scribner for providing me an ARC via NetGalley.
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.