chilling | intricate | gripping | glamorous | twisted
what it says on the cover …
Beautiful twin sisters Iris and Summer are startlingly alike, but beneath the surface lies a darkness that sets them apart. Cynical and insecure, Iris has long been envious of open-hearted Summer’s seemingly never-ending good fortune, including her perfect husband Adam.
Called to Thailand to help sail the beloved family yacht to the Seychelles, Iris nurtures her own secret hopes for what might happen on the journey. But when she unexpectedly finds herself alone in the middle of the Indian Ocean, everything changes.
Now is her chance to take what she’s always wanted – the idyllic life she’s coveted from afar. But just how far will she go to get the life she’s dreamed about? And how far will she go to ensure no one discovers the truth?
PUBLISHED: 22nd July 2021
SHELF: Fiction | Thriller | Mystery
AUTHOR: Rose Carlyle
PUBLISHER: Corvus (Atlantic Books)
FORMATS: Hardback | Paperback | Kindle | AudioBook
my review …
Troubled female relationships provide rich territory for psychological thrillers, and so it stands to reason that troubled sisterly relationships take the tension to the next level. By elevating this bond to twin sisters the author has established a potentially incendiary dynamic, and the opening chapters of The Girl In The Mirror certainly grabbed my attention.
Iris narrates the brief prologue, immediately setting the scene for a sibling relationship that’s – at best – uncomfortable, hinting at the promise of a tense read ahead. She certainly makes a great character, and her narrative dominates the first part of this three-part plot line. Despite being the identical twin sister of Summer, she’s pretty detached from her family; she swings between idolising Summer and resenting her, creating a superbly unreliable perspective. The fragility of their relationship has deeply embedded childhood roots, and it’s the source of some excruciatingly bitter reminiscing that helps to illuminate the plot and establish the foundations of an extremely dysfunctional, extended family.
It’s through Iris’s eyes that the reader is introduced to Summer, her handsome husband Adam, and Adam’s young son Tarquin. It’s a life Iris covets quite obsessively … but not the child, Iris really is not the maternal kind. However, get her onto the topic of the family yacht, Bathsheba, or the beautiful grand piano gracing Summer’s elegant home, and that’s where you’ll find Iris’s true affections.
As the back-cover blurb (above) describes, Iris answers a call for help sailing Bathsheba from Thailand to the Seychelles, relishing an opportunity to share the crossing in the close company of Adam. But in the time it took her to fly from Australia to Thailand, plans changed and Iris finds herself making the journey with Summer. The crossing forms the basis of the book’s first ‘part’, and I found myself a little disappointed at how well they got on (guilty confession) … there was a bit of an undercurrent, but nothing like the fireworks and confrontation I was hoping for. The flashes of cabin-fever suspense tended to lose out to the technicalities of yachts and yachting; I appreciate the factual accuracy they brought to the story, but they were a bit of a buzz kill.
Whereas the part-one chapters can be described as simmering and slow-burning, in part two the pace and tension are significantly elevated. This is where the edge-of-the seat drama really kicks in, and through these chapters the reader gets to know Summer a little better, as well as getting uncomfortably close to other members of the Carmichael family. There’s a distinct propensity towards the sensational from this point on, with a the intricate plot lurching from twisting to twisted. There were times when the author introduced some unwelcome themes (‘sexyrape’ role-play and incest) which, whilst they were a bit of a shock they were clearly intended to underscore the extent to which this damaged family was prepared to go to satisfy their greed, and indulge their obsessions.
As debut novels go, I found The Girl In The Mirror to be a strong, dramatic, and wholly enjoyable read. The author ambitiously tests the limits of what her readers enjoy and seek out in their thriller novels, whilst drawing on her own (sailing) expertise to keep the book from stretching the bounds of credibility too far. Had it not been for the deeply manipulative characters (you can’t turn your back on Iris, Summer, or any of the family to be honest), I would have happily relaxed and lost myself amongst the rich and vivid tropical settings. This is a fresh, stylish, and unpredictable psychological thriller that unquestionably held my attention from start to finish.
Thank you to publishers, Corvus, for sending me a paperback copy of The Girl In The Mirror in return for an honest review.
If this book sounds like one you’d love to read too, here’s a selection of purchase links:
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Rose Carlyle is a lawyer and keen adventurer. She has crewed on scientific yachting expeditions to subantarctic islands and lived aboard her own yacht in the Indian Ocean for a year, sailing from Thailand to South Africa via the Seychelles.
Rose was awarded first class honours in her creative writing Masters at the University of Aukland, and was a Michael King Writer-in-Residence in 2020. She lives in Aukland with her three children, and spends her spare time in far-flung places and currently lives in New Zealand. The Girl in the Mirror is her debut novel.
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