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The Girl in the Mirror


The Girl in the Mirror

From newcomer Rose Carlyle comes THE GIRL IN THE MIRROR, a creepy and suspenseful domestic thriller about eerily close twins, a million-dollar fortune and one life-changing lie.

Twin sisters Iris and Summer are identical, to a degree: as embryos, the girls split at the last possible second, leaving them like mirrored opposites. Summer is practically perfect in every way --- beautiful, anatomically symmetrical, and with all of her organs where they belong. Iris, too, is beautiful, but her body bears the marks of their split, with her organs on the opposite side of her body, her face just a touch away from symmetrical, and an insecurity plaguing her every thought. The two grew up as best friends, although Summer was always one step ahead in love, beauty and acceptance. As heiresses to their father’s immense fortune, they lead a life of privilege with yachts, travel to gorgeous new countries, and the safety net of their father’s wealth. At least, until he left their mother for another woman and started a whole new family.

"Rose Carlyle is an impressive new voice in the thriller genre, and she has produced a pitch-perfect suspense story. Between swapped identities, the eerie setting of the sea, and an unreliable, possibly insane narrator, the book has all the makings of a new classic."

Now, years later, Iris and Summer are 23. Summer is married and living a life of luxury with her movie-star handsome husband, Adam. Iris, meanwhile, is just coming off a broken engagement, but that’s not all: She is also carrying the weight of her father’s last demand. In order for any of his children to inherit his wealth, they must produce an heir. His grandchild will be the true inheritor of his riches, and none of it can be spent on any of his other children. It is the plan of the wealthy and monolithic, the kind that ensures generational wealth but very little familial connectedness. And Iris is desperate to get pregnant before any of her other siblings.

When we meet Iris and Summer, Iris has been asked to come to her sister’s rescue in Phuket, Thailand. Summer and Adam have docked the family yacht there, but an issue with paperwork arises, and they must get it back home to Seychelles. The only problem is that Adam’s son from his previous marriage is deathly ill, and one of them must stay with him at all times. Now Iris must fly to Phuket to help man the yacht on the two-week-long journey back to Seychelles. Iris is an obvious choice for the dubious mission; she was always the better sailor of the twins, and she loves the yacht more than any of her family’s other possessions. And maybe, just maybe, those two weeks aboard with Adam will help her achieve her dream of a pregnancy.

Iris’ half-baked plan is quickly upended when Summer reveals that she’ll be making the journey with her. As the two set off on the long trip, Carlyle sets a tone of tension, with competition, jealousy and amped-up sibling rivalry simmering just below the surface. Summer has always been the sweet one, the kind one, but then why is she tied to so many of Iris’ most humiliating memories. And why has she tricked Summer into making this excursion with her?

Answers are hard to come by, but even more so when Summer disappears one week into the journey. Presuming her beloved twin dead and unsure of how to explain the situation to her family or the authorities, Iris does the unthinkable and takes her sister’s place. But with the coast of Seychelles creeping closer and a hundred-million-dollar inheritance on the line, she will have to do more than wear Summer’s clothes and make love to her gorgeous husband. She also will have to dig deep within herself to confront all of her darkest insecurities and then push them down even farther until she can pass for perfect, beautiful Summer.

If I have one complaint about THE GIRL IN THE MIRROR, it is only that the beginning is dreadfully slow, much like a two-week-long cruise across the sea. Carlyle quickly immerses her readers into the setting on the yacht, but the early chapters are almost too bogged down with details about yacht maintenance, sailing and the girls’ histories with the sea. The major conflict is not fully introduced until about a third of the way in, and I fear that this might lead readers to put the book down too soon, before the tension is driven up and the story is set into action.

That said, Rose Carlyle is an impressive new voice in the thriller genre, and she has produced a pitch-perfect suspense story. Between swapped identities, the eerie setting of the sea, and an unreliable, possibly insane narrator, the book has all the makings of a new classic. The bond between twins can be so alluring in fiction, but even more so when there is a built-in rivalry, a deficit and a lifetime of harsh comparisons. Iris is an interesting protagonist in that even when you believe her, you’re never quite sure that she’s letting you see her hand. Once the novel kicks off, Carlyle proves herself more than adept at dishing out revelations and pacing her twists and turns so that you can almost feel them coming, even when you can't guess what they might be.

Perfectly twisty and deliciously eerie, THE GIRL IN THE MIRROR will be a favorite for readers of THE WIFE BETWEEN US and THE SILENT PATIENT.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on October 23, 2020

The Girl in the Mirror
by Rose Carlyle