Reviewed by Ian Lipke
The Girl in the Mirror has been described as ‘an addictive thriller about greed, lust, secrets, and deadly lies.’ You’d better believe it. And I mustn’t give too much away. It is that type of yarn that makes readers want to share its secrets.
This story is about a set of twins, two girls, one very popular, the other socially withdrawn and introspective. The girls are cursed with an avaricious and morally bankrupt father who cannot overcome the lack of a male offspring who follows his own inclinations. His son identifies himself as gay. His decision to “bequeath[ed] his empire to the first of his seven children to marry and produce an heir” (36) drives the motivations of all main characters in the book.
The story unfolds with the spotlight on the twins and Adam, the husband of Summer. The second of the twins, Iris, leads the story throughout. There are shocks ahead in a story that is intelligently told. The style is casual, the author shows no sign of strain and keeps her momentum flowing as the lives of her characters undergo tumultuous change. While the story has more than its share of deception, the reader’s awareness of what is really going on is not aroused until the climax.
The characters make this story. Rose Carlyle understands what family members can do to one another. Where money is involved, big money of the order of millions, real morality and decency and honesty are shed as thoroughly as the skin of any dangerous snake. The reader can expect to be highly amused at the machinations of certain characters while being horrified and upset at the antics of others. This is a story about characters whom readers will like or hate, enjoy or find tedious, discover with amazement the reason why the girl is in the mirror, and the central part the mirror plays in the plot. Finally, some will react with fury when the final curtain is drawn.
Settings vary from a brief mention of New Zealand to Thailand, the ocean’s broad spaces, the Seychelles and tropical Australia. There is opportunity for the author to demonstrate her talent in bringing out the nature of each location. She is well equipped to do so since her life has been an adventurous one. Her knowledge of the sea comes out in her comprehensive understanding of what happens aboard a yacht and in the procedures to follow when searching for someone overboard.
The author must have been uncomfortable with the notion that an experienced adolescent and her sister, a complete novice, would take on a journey from Phuket to the Seychelles. The exploits of Jessica Watson provide an argument for solo sailing but, nevertheless, I think it foolhardy to attempt such a crossing. And so it proved…or did it? You never know with this author. She shifts the sands beneath the tides a-swirling around your feet. When the pieces of the jigsaw are fitted together, everything makes sense.
Signs of intricate planning can be found in this text. The whole production is too smooth to be something the author has dashed off after an extended Friday lunch involving Martinis. A coldly rational mind has been at work in producing this publication. Nevertheless, much as I admire the stroke of genius that introduced dextrocardia into this tale, I felt it was not enough just to mention the phenomenon. The writer should have made more of this idea.
But why should I carp at one or two minor shortcomings. This is a wonderful book and it comes with a solid recommendation from me.
By Rose Carlyle
Allen & Unwin
$29.99; 368 pp