Identical twins, a Gothic-esque house, mysteries from the past and a missing woman – oh, and a fantasy place created by said children in said house – that’s Mirrorland, Carole Johnstone’s psychological novel, in its most simplified form and what’s not to like? It takes its title from the escapist world sisters El and Cat dreamed up in the house they grew up in.

Fast forward several years and the twins are estranged, living on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Cat, now a writer in southern California, receives a phone call from Ross, El’s husband, telling her that her twin is missing. In a nod to Rebecca, El went out on a boat and didn’t come back. She’s presumed dead. Cat’s not convinced though, El’s dramatic and manipulative, yet she flies back to Edinburgh, to the family house which El and Ross now inhabit.

As Cat battles with the emotions evoked by being back in the house, her torn relationships with El and seeing Ross, with whom both twins share a past, memories of Mirrorland inevitably intrude, raising many questions. Was it just the elaborate dreamscape of two imaginative children escaping the tensions of home life, or something more sinister? Did fantasy and reality merge there? And why is someone sending Cat clues to follow? Is it El? What’s the purpose? Where will they lead?

There’s been a lot of hype about Mirrorland. It’s certainly engaging and extremely readable, although a little slow to burn and predictable at times. It’s complex and creepy certainly, Johnstone doing a good job of creating an atmospheric, authentic landscape against which the plot unfolds.

An extremely visual novel, Mirrorland was optioned at a very early stage and we look forward to seeing how Johnstone’s novel transitions from the page to the big screen.


Mirrorland | Carole Johnstone | Borough Books | 21 April 2021 | hardback | ebook | audio | £12.99

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Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the publisher virtual book tour. Many thanks to lovely Anne Cater for arranging it and to the publisher for sending a review copy and the above jacket image. All views expressed are our own. All rights reserved. Please check out the other great reviewers on the tour.

See also: Anita Nair’s Bangalore detective Borei Gowda‘;’Michael Connelly’s epic hero, Mickey Haller‘;‘Chris Whitaker’s small-town America’; ‘Damian Barr’s slice of South Africa’; ‘Nora Roberts’ Sanctuary: an Old Familiar’; By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘Yvonne Battle-Fenton’s Remembered‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘We should all be feminists‘; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

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