Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone – Book Review & Blog Tour!

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.

About the Book

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.

My Review.

Thank you to the publisher and the Write Reads for gifting me a free copy of the book for review. I can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Having had a trusted blogger read and love Mirrorland, I had pretty high expectations going in, expectations that it absolutely knockdown out of the park. Mirrorland is part horror part psychological thriller and I spent every minute I could gripped to the pages, desperate to know what exactly was really happening.

Cat and El are Mirror twins, the rarest of the rare, at least that’s what their mother told them growing up. As children they were inseparable, spending their time in Mirrorland, a place of magic and mystery where nothing is quite what it seems. But then something happens that tears them apart and sends Cat across the Atlantic Ocean to America. Until 12 years later when she receives a phone call, El is missing after going out on her sailboat and the police believe she is dead. Cat returns home to find that El and her husband Ross now live in their childhood home, a place that seems hauntingly familiar and yet completely different from when they were children. Cat resents being dragged back to this place that haunts her dreams, but when she starts receiving emails from someone she thought imaginary, Cat gets dragged into a different past, one so different from what she remembered, one that sends her back to Mirrorland where the truth of their past lies waiting for her to discover it.

Cat is a fantastic POV to read from and the Queen of unreliable narrators! Her memories of the past are so twisted from reality that we as the reader never quite know what is truth and what is fiction. When she finds herself back in the town she ran away from, in the house she grew up in, she resents El for making her come back. She believes El is alive and playing mind games with her, even when the Police and Ross, El’s husband don’t believe her. Because Cat doesn’t know the truth of Mirrorland or the people who lived there, we as the reader get to come to the realisations at the same time as her, we feel her horror and disgust and despair as wholly as if it was our own, and I defy you to not get emotionally invested in her outcome.

We also get to meet El through flashbacks, though these are told from Cat’s POV and so are slightly skewed, but we also get to read a little of her POV through diary notes and letters that she has left for Cat to find round the house. She is a hard character to define, and I can’t really talk about her too much without giving away spoilers but her story is definitely a heartbreaking one. There are a multitude of other characters from Ross, El’s husband, El’s friends, the police investigating El’s disappearance as well as the characters of Mirrorland, they all play a large part in the story, some giving you little clues that help pull the story together, and others that just add to the horror aspect of the story.

Mirrorland is a true genre bending novel. Though it is a psychological thriller at it’s heart there are elements of horror as well as magical realism all of which help bring El and Cat’s story to light. I will admit to getting freaked out on more than one occasion, but the magical element at the start of the book help ease us as the reader, as well as Cat, into the truth of the story. Though a little slow starting, it’s not until the last part of the book that you realise the set up was absolutely necessary in telling El and Cat’s story, and once we hit the big plot twist I found myself uttering ‘Fuck’ at pretty regular intervals, not wanting to believe the horror of what I was reading. I will say this is not going to be a book for everyone, there are some pretty big hitting trigger and even I, who never really struggle with them, found myself having to just put the book down for a bit and truly comprehend what I was reading.

The plot twists in this book are off the chart. With Cat being such an unreliable narrator, the first part of the book reads as a kind of magical realism, were never quite sure what is real and what is fiction, but when the pieces start to come together, when Cat starts remembering the truth of their childhood, that’s when Johnstone’s foreshadowing comes into play, and boy is she amazing at it. I had guess, after guess, after guess as to what was happening, had happened in the past, and though I guessed certain parts, there was more than one that hit me out of nowhere, but once they come to light, you wonder how you didn’t see it sooner.

I’m so glad that I got onto this blog tour, Cat and El’s story is one that is going to stay with me for a while after reading and I can see Mirrorland making more than one venture into my dreams. It’s a story about truths and how easy they are twisted, about love, betrayal and revenge. But mostly it’s a story about two sisters who were torn apart without even realising it and the paths they take to return to one another.

6 replies »

  1. Becky, this is such a wonderful review–you’ve understood what I was trying to do with Mirrorland exactly, and I’m so happy that you enjoyed it! I hope if Mirrorland ever does make it into your dreams that they are magical ones with only a wee amount of scary!
    Thank you so, so much again for reading the book and writing such a brilliant review. I’m very grateful to you for being a part of the blog tour!
    All best wishes,
    Carole x

    Liked by 1 person

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