Today is my stop on the ultimate blog tour for Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone, and I am excited to be sharing my review with you all.
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.
When Dave first told me about this tour, I knew this was one I needed to be a part of. From the blurb, Mirrorland sounds exactly like the type of book that I love to read, and it certainly didn’t disappoint!
From the very beginning of the book, you can feel that darkness, which continues to grow throughout the story. The story begins with a prologue, set in 1998, when the twins were 12 years old. It gives us a little snippet of their strange and terrible story, and really sucks you in, leaving you with a million questions before fast forwarding to when the twins are adults, estranged, and El is missing.
To begin with, I did find it a little hard to follow, because we kept getting dropped little pieces of memories from when the twins were children, but once I got used to the writing style, it became a lot easier, and extremely enjoyable to read. What initially made the story hard to follow soon became one of my favourite parts of the book. Those little pieces of memories are our first introduction to a world that Cat and El created, called Mirrorland. Children have incredible imaginations, but the twins took it to a whole new level, to a point where they believed in their own make believe world, filled with clowns, pirates, and all kinds of nightmares. When Cat returned to Scotland, this world truly came alive, and warped in to something utterly terrifying.
I loved the treasure hunt aspect of the story. Having Cat following the clues, and discovering the secrets and suppressed memories of her past was great to read, and it keeps you completely hooked by the story. It really builds the tension. I found myself theorising what had happened not only to El, but also all those years ago when the twins were children.
The only thing I will say that bothered me (only very slightly) was that the boat circumstances were a little too similar to that of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca for me, which was instantly what I was made to think of, and it kind of throws you off the track of the book a little in terms of figuring out what happened to El. However, if you haven’t read Rebecca, then that shouldn’t be an issue, and even if you have, it doesn’t distract TOO much from the book, or put you off continuing.
There are so many interesting characters in this story, not only the real, but also the imaginary characters in Cat’s memories. The imaginary characters, particularly Bluebeard, were made to be so horrifying by the stories that the twins were told as children. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Cat and El to grow up surrounded by these terrifying stories that their mother told them, or to be made to do drills, or to just not be shown any love or affection. It must have taken a huge toll on them mentally. There was something about El’s husband, Ross, that I instantly took a dislike to, and I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was, even now after finishing the book, I still can’t pinpoint what it was that made me take an instant dislike to him.
The story gradually builds in pace, starting fairly slow, and then picking up until we get to the explosive climax. I had so many theories along the way, but I certainly didn’t see that ending coming. There were a few huge twists right towards the end, which make it impossible to stop reading. Honestly, what a way to end the story! Every loose end is tied up, and every little piece of the puzzle comes together so perfectly, in a way you would never expect.
Mirrorland is an intense, exciting, gripping story, that will have you on the edge of your seat, from beginning to end. It is Carole Johnstones debut novel, and she has certainly set the bar high with it. I can not wait to see what else she has to offer in the future.
I give Mirrorland a 4.5 star rating!
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.
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