Category Archives: Mirrorland

Review: Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

Title: Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone
Publisher: Scribner
Genre: Contemporary, Psychological, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating:B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


With the startling twists of Gone Girl and the haunting emotional power of Room, Mirrorland is a thrilling work of psychological suspense about twin sisters, the man they both love, and the dark childhood they can’t leave behind.

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…

A twisty, dark, and brilliantly crafted thriller about love and betrayal, redemption and revenge, Mirrorland is a propulsive, page-turning debut about the power of imagination and the price of freedom.


Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone is an intriguing psychological mystery.

Identical twins Ellice “El” and Catriona “Cat” grow up in a household with just their mum and granddad. Their old Victorian house has an unusual passage to a place the imaginative sisters call “Mirrorland”. In Mirrorland, they have grand adventures on the high seas and the old West. Inside the house, their mum reads darker fairy tales and stories to them. But, when the sisters are twelve years old, they go into care after they are found at the local harbor. El and Cat remain close until old childhood friend, Ross MacAuley comes back into their lives. After El and Ross decide to marry, Cat leaves Scotland for the United States where she remains until her brother-in-law lets her know El is missing. Cat immediately returns and waits in vain for news about El who is presumed to have died in a boating accident. She stays with Ross who, by an odd twist of fate, now lives in her old childhood home. With memories assailing her at her turn, she is forced to look at her childhood through a different lens as she attempts to convince everyone El is still alive.

Cat initially views her long ago past through a haze of nostalgia.  She looks fondly back on her and El’s various escapades but a hint of uneasiness runs underneath the surface. Cat has an unnerving ability to forget upsetting pieces of her history so she does not know what to believe when she begins receiving unsettling notes and emails. The only time she feels truly safe is with Ross and although he is El’s husband, he was her one-time boyfriend. Cat is still attracted to her brother-in-law but should she completely trust his version of events?

After Ross and his mum move into the house next door, he is a frequent visitor to Mirrorland. Cat is immediately smitten but she can be a little shy so it is sometimes hard to capture his attention. The sisters can be cruel on occasion as they join forces against him during some of their adventures. As they are reunited in their late teens, Cat is delighted that she and Ross spend time together as a couple. But she gives him up without much of a fight and cuts off all contact with him and El once they announce their engagement.

While the mystery surrounding El’s disappearance is interesting, the first third of the story is a little slow-paced as Cat gets caught up in reflecting back on her childhood.  These passages are long and a bit confusing because it is impossible to tell what is real and what is not. It is not until the storyline focuses mainly on the present that the pacing picks up. Cat is a fascinating woman but she is a somewhat unreliable narrator. And since El is mainly seen through Cat’s memories, it is difficult to know if her portrayal of her sister is accurate.

Mirrorland is an eerie mystery with an atmospheric setting. The plot is very imaginative but the pacing is a little uneven. The twin’s play area is somewhat creepy and Cat comes to realize that her memories are not quite accurate. Ross is initially devastated over El’s disappearance but some of his behavior is eye-brow raising. With very clever plot twists, Carole Johnstone brings this suspenseful mystery to a pitch perfect conclusion.

Comments Off on Review: Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

Filed under Contemporary, Joanne Johnstone, Mirrorland, Mystery, Psychological, Rated B, Review, Scribner, Suspense