“Mirrorland” by Carole Johnstone #BookReview

Georgia Kostopoulou


When I first read the storyline of “Mirrorland” I knew I was in for some thrilling reading. I expected it to be twisted in a way, following this strange treasure hunt one sister left for the other. I never really expected it to be that good!

Ellice and Catriona, El and Cat, are identical twins, a mirror image of one another. Every time each of them looks at her sisters, she sees herself in a mirror. How odd could that be? But the two of them have sworn to love each over for eternity. To never leave one another. They have a special bond only identical twins could forge. When one hurts, the other feels the pain. They are unique and special as their mother keeps reminding them.

The two girls grew up in an imposing flat-stone house right outside Edinburg. Scotland is full of stone houses, but theirs is different. Their grandfather bought this house, out of the compensation he took for his wounded leg. It’s his pride, one he’ll have forever. The four of them inhabit the rooms of the two story building. El and Cat, their mother and their grandfather. They live happily together, or at least that is what they mostly think they do and they have their own imaginary  playground at the basement. Mirrorland is their safe place, their playground out in the Caribbean sea, where their pirate’s ship, The Satisfaction, scours the seas, casting off towards The Island. In there, the girls set their imagination free and live the moment as pirates, with their own crew, pirate ships hunting them in the vast ocean and the law of the pirates followed all the way.

Now in her thirties and while being thousands of miles away from Edinburg, Cat receives shocking news. Her sister has disappeared. Her sister’s husband and childhood friend has been trying to reach Cat, but she hasn’t returned his messages. She makes up her mind, no matter how badly she doesn’t want that, and returns to Edinburg and 36 Westeryk Road. But as she get’s there, she finds herself more and more drawn back to Mirrorland and everything that happened there in the past. And she has to, because El has a plan. She planted a treasure hunt for Cay aiming to expose long buried secrets and to trigger her sister’s memory back to life. All the horrors of the past must return, for justice to be served.

The book starts with the sisters being at a harbor in the midst of the night on September 5th, 1998 looking for a pirate ship to join. As odd as it might strike to you, this is referring to a past timeline, one of the girls’ childhood and their fantasy world of Mirrorland. As the pages turn, the reader comes to get to know of the past and this fantasy world, as well as of the present. The two different timelines serve their own purpose. The present is to give an outline of the current situation and relationship between the two sisters as well as the ongoing police investigation of El’s disappearance. The past timeline is there to provide all the clues we need to look for into the past to understand of what may have happened that triggered current state and current reactions. What went down in the past, that led to the girls standing that September night at the harbor and what may be connected to the present date and El’s disappearance.

I really enjoyed the fantasy world that the mother build for the girls and how they evolved it. It is more than clear that these two had a far more vivid imagination by any other child. They actually lived in their fantasies and their mother feeding them with fairytales and imaginary stories really helped them on that front. When I read the books that she read to the girls at a very early age, the terror that she instilled in their souls, I knew something was off, though I could never have thought of what. As the book progressed, bit by bit, I came to understand some of the points, some f the hidden messages and the reasoning behind. But I never thought of the whole extend of the past, all those hidden secrets, all those skeletons on the closets.

Carole Johnstone has created a horror house as the main stage for her first full length novel, mixing fantasy and mystery into one, ending up with a terrifying psychological thriller. The different names of the rooms, the descriptions of each section of the house, even the room bells added to the gloomy atmosphere. I could have never imagined little children living in a place like this, just like nobody else did. As the horrifying secrets come to the surface from some point on and until the very last page, the reader starts making scenarios of what might have happened. Some may be thought of, others not and for sure the very awful of those never come to mind.  I hadn’t read such a hair raising thriller in a good while!

“Mirrorland” comes out on April 1st in UK. Keep your eye out for this one. You don’t want to miss out!

Thank you to NetGalley & HarperCollins UK, HarperFiction for an advance copy of this book. The views expressed are my personal and honest opinion.


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