Cat lives in Los Angeles, far away from 36 Westeryk Road, the imposing gothic house in Edinburgh where she and her estranged twin sister, El, 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 36 Westeryk Road, which has scarcely changed in twenty years. The grand old house is still full of shadowy 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 in almost every room: a treasure hunt that leads right back to Mirrorland, where she knows the truth lies crouched and waiting…
*I was sent an ARC of this novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review – a massive thank you to Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read this book early + to The Write Reads for asking me to be part of the blog tour*
I knew going in that I would probably like this book because the synopsis immediately captured my interest but Mirrorland really managed to surpass my expectations and is definitely one of the best thrillers I’ve read recently. Mirrorland is dark, fantastical and disturbing in equal measures, but it all works so well together to form a compelling and unique thriller.
Carole Johnstone makes use of some classic thriller tropes but spins them and makes them her own. If you’re into reading thrillers, you’ll notice that ‘the missing person’ trope is used all the time and it can become kind of predictable and follows a certain formula. In Mirrorland however, this trope of sorts is used to a really interesting effect and I loved all the twists and turns the case took. You’re left questioning whether El is really missing, who is responsible and of course the big question: what happened in the sisters childhood with Mirrorland and why they’ve been estranged for the last twelve years. Given the fact that Cat is an extremely unreliable narrator, the suspense and confusion of the story is even more heightened.
I really liked all the fantastical elements and the flashbacks to Cat and El’s childhood as they grow up in the imposing gothic house where their mother reads them stories and their imagination runs rampant. I thought these were some of the strongest parts of the novel and builds up this whimsical atmosphere with a sinister edge hiding underneath even the most pleasant moments. At times it can be hard to keep up with all the different rooms, worlds and characters that the girls have created but you get used to the fast paced flow eventually and it adds a whole different layer to the story.
The novel weaves in between the twins childhood jaunts to Mirrorland and to the present day where Cat is back in the house and starts receiving strange hints and clues, containing information which only El could have known. I really liked how the story plays out and how by the end all the loose ends get tied up, I like when stories have this well contained nature and Johnstone fulfils this to a T.
Johnstone explores many different themes and covers a lot of important issues in the novel such as domestic abuse, childhood trauma and coping mechanisms, which I think is so important. Some of the content could be triggering so I’ll include a full list of trigger warnings here: childhood abuse, sexual assault / abuse, domestic abuse, gas lighting, alcoholism, drugging, infidelity.
If you’re looking for unique thriller which will be sure to stick with you and provides mind bending twists and turns then definitely pick up Mirrorland. Thanks again to The Write Reads for running this blog tour and for asking me to participate!
Until next time,