Book review: Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

I was enticed by the premise for this debut thriller so was excited to be invited to read an early copy. However, I must admit that after I’d downloaded it and seen a few reviews describing it as magical realism I wondered if I’d made a mistake as that isn’t my usual genre so it slipped down my TBR list. Now I’ve read it, here’s what I think.

I wasn’t there when my sister died.

Because she isn’t dead.

Perhaps everyone’s childhood memories are the same: part truth, part fantasy. But this house turned our imagination into a melting pot, a forge. A cauldron. I can trust nothing that came out of it.

No. 36 Westeryk Road, an imposing flat-stone house on the outskirts of Edinburgh. A house of curving shadows and crumbling grandeur. But it’s what lies under thee house that’s extraordinary – Mirrorland. A vivid, make-believe world that twin sisters Cat and El created as children. A place of escape, but from what?

Now in her thirties, Cat receives the shocking news that her sister has disappeared. Forced to return to Edinburgh, Cat finds herself irresistibly drawn back into Mirrorland. Because El has a plan. She’s left behind a treasure hunt that will unearth long-buried secrets…

I will admit to being a terrible stick-in-the-mud when it comes to reading – I know what I like and I like what I know. I like rational explanations and anything gimmicky makes me run a mile. But I love it when a book surprises me, and this is one of those books.

Haunting, nightmarish and thrilling, it would not let me go! The best way I can describe it is a bit Diane Setterfield meets Stephen King – which is to say a beautifully written, beguiling story of sibling rivalry which plays with reality and childhood imagination. It’s very classy, brilliantly plotted and full of twists. The imagery is so vivid it would make a brilliant film. Although I had a suspicion about the sisters early on which turned out to be correct I loved seeing how it all unfolded. This is an exceptional debut – I’ll certainly be looking out for more by this author.

Miorrorland will be published by HarperCollins on 1 April 2021. Thanks to the publisher for an advance copy with no obligation to review.


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