By Carole Johnstone
There are scenes in MIRRORLAND that feel like being lost in a carnival fun house.
First, there are the twin sisters, Catriona (Cat) and Ellice (El) Morgan who live in a large house in Leith, Scotland, with their grandfather and mother. Then there are the people (real or imagined) who inhabited the house during Cat’s childhood: The Tooth Fairy, Bluebeard, Mouse and the Witch.
And Wonderland itself: an alley-like space behind a pantry that was transformed into play areas with boxes and discarded junk such as Boomtown from the American West; a Sioux village; the deck of a ship made of painted walls, bedsheets that blow in a fan-driven wind; and a gravel exercise yard based on a description in Stephen King’s novella, RITA HAYWORTH AND THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION that the girls’ mother read out loud to them. All fodder for the vivid imaginations of two little girls with almost no friends.
What isn’t imaginary is the falling out the two sisters had nearly a dozen years before the story opened. Nor is El’s disappearance on her sailboat. When she gets the news, Cat returns to Leith from a self-imposed exile in L.A. She comes back to Ross, the man whom El married that drove two sisters apart, and to a house filled with memories and shadows that Cat can’t quite separate into fact or fantasy.
What she does know is that while Ross is a dramatically grieving husband in public, he’s seducing her in private. While Ross believes El is dead, Cat believes she’d know that in her bones if it were true. The police know this isn’t an ordinary boating accident because there’s no sign anywhere of the boat, much less El’s body.
Carole Johnstone has created compelling layers of mystery where fantasy overlays fact and psychological defenses keep Cat from realizing the unthinkable.
This story is darkly atmospheric and will keep you wondering, “Why?” “Who?” and “How?” to the last page. This is a cleverly crafted psychological thriller that will keep you engaged to the last twist at the end.
About the Author: Carole Johnstone
MIRRORLAND is Carole Johnstone’s first novel. Her award-winning short stories have been published around the world. She currently is working on a second novel, also a murder mystery, set in the Outer Hebrides.
“I love novels full of atmosphere and passion; mystery and suspense; twists and surprises. I like to write about both the wonderful and terrible things we do for love. And the incredible power of secrets—the ways in which they can both protect and destroy us,” she wrote on her website.
Her influences include Agatha Christie, Gillian Flynn, Toni Morrison, Daphne Du Maurier, Shirley Jackson, Ruth Ware, Sophie Hannah, Alexandre Dumas and Stephen King.
Johnstone started writing stories almost as soon as she learned to read. Concerned that becoming a writer was an unlikely career goal, she decided to study science at Caledonian University in Glasgow. She moved to Essex, England, to become first a radiographer and then a medical physic dosimetrist with the British National Health Service (NHS).
Her first published short story, “The Morning After,” appeared in 2007. Ten years later, she decided to throw practicality to the winds, took a 14-month sabbatical and all of her savings and moved to Cyprus to write MIRRORLAND.
She grew up in Lanarkshire and now lives in Argyll & Bute.