Reviewed by Robert Goodman.
By Rose Carlyle, Allen and Unwin.
Turns out the twisty domestic thrillers with adult female protagonists but with the word “girl” in the title are still going strong. But readers will know what they are in for when they pick up Rose Carlyle’s debut thriller The Girl in the Mirror. A potentially unreliable narrator, family intrigue, a little gaslighting, and plenty of twists. And Carlyle delivers all of these in a slick, page-turning package. Not only that but it features identical twins with different personalities, an effective thriller (and horror) staple when used well.
Iris and Summer are mirror image twins. They look identical but on closer inspection Iris’s right side mirrors Summer’s left, down to their internal organs. They are also the first and second children of the second of three marriages of their developer father who died young and left a zinger in his will. In an almost 19th century bequest, their father has left the bulk of his $100 million estate to the first grandchild born of any of his children from either of his last two marriages. Iris and Summer as the oldest are the ones most likely and when the book opens Summer, the older twin, is happily married to Adam and Iris has just broken up with her boyfriend Noah.
When the book opens, Iris has come to Summer’s Queensland house to lick her wounds but soon has been given an offer she can’t refuse. Summer, Adam and Adam’s son Tarquin are in Thailand as part of a long sailing trip but Tarquin has ended up in hospital. They need to get the family yacht (previously owned by Summer’s father) out of Thailand quickly for… reasons, so Summer asks Iris to fly over and pilot the boat to the Seychelles. Iris goes, thinking she will be crewing with, and possibly making moves on, Adam. But Adam has to stay behind and so the boat is crewed by the sisters. When tragedy strikes, Iris, makes a life changing decision.
The Girl in the Mirror asks readers to suspend their disbelief to a fairly high degree, from the 19th Century pot-boiler will onwards and particularly when the twists start coming thick and fast. Any connection between the action on the page and anything that might actually happen in the real world is fairly tenuous. Which is not always a bad thing, but if a reader does not fully buy in to the premise (that one twin can pass as another) then they are likely to spend most of the time scratching their head at the way many of the characters around the twins behave.
All that said, The Girl in the Mirror delivers on its promise. A page turning, domestic thriller replete with exotic settings, beautiful people and constant sense of danger. Nothing deep and meaningful or even necessarily believable if you stop too long to think about it, but a thrill ride of assumed identities, plans within plans, people behaving badly and twists through to the final page.
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