Not only is The Girl in the Mirror by Rose Carlyle a well-paced and well-plotted thriller, but it’s also a love story to sailing. I’ve never even been on a sailboat, so I had to keep stopping to look up terms like genoa, reefed and zephyr.
Now I know that port is the left side of the boat and starboard is the right. Aft is the back of the boat, or the stern. Genoa, in addition to being a delicious salami, is a type of jib and a jib is a triangular sail that sits forward of the mast. When a jib is so big it overlaps the mast, it’s called a genoa.
Want more? When you reef down a sail, you’re folding it or rolling it down to reduce the size. A reach refers to different angles against the wind, so when the author wrote that they were “skimming through the waters on a beam reach” that meant the wind was perpendicular to the boat. A zephyr is a gentle breeze and a tiller is a lever used to steer (some boats have a wheel, some a tiller.) I could go on, but this is a book review, not a sailing manual 😊
It’s funny, l love the song Southern Cross by Crosby, Stills & Nash, which is full of terms like this, and I know all the words but never bothered to look them up. Now when I sing along, I’ll have a better idea of what they’re talking about!
Got out of town on a boat goin’ to Southern Islands
Sailing a reach before a followin’ sea
She was makin’ for the trades on the outside
And the downhill run to Papeete
Off the wind on this heading lie the Marquesas
We got eighty feet of the waterline nicely making way
In a noisy bar in Avalon I tried to call you
But on a midnight watch I realized why twice you ran awayCS&N
This is a twins story. Good twin bad twin, but wait, which is which? Summer Rose and Iris aren’t just identical, they’re rare mirror twins: Iris’ organs are on the opposite side of her body. I had to look this up, too, and it’s real – when facing each other, mirror twins look exactly alike. In Iris and Summer’s case, there are slight variations to their faces, but really only they can see it.
Even though they’re identical and gorgeous, Summer is the prettier one, the good one. Things come more easily for her and her life seems perfect. She’s married to a successful hunk of a man, Adam, who is a widower with a toddler son.
The story begins with a request for a favor. Summer calls Iris in a panic; their son, Tarquin, is ill and she needs Iris to come and help her husband sail the family yacht from Thailand to the Seychelles. Summer would stay behind at the hospital with Tarquin. (The yacht couldn’t stay anchored in Thailand – something about a permit. Rich people problems.)
The yacht belonged to their late father and is called Bathsheba. The dinghy is called Solomon and Bathsheba’s autopilot is Dave, as in King David. Their father wasn’t particularly religious; Bathsheba is just a great name for a yacht.
Iris loves sailing and is a natural at it. She’s also freshly single and out of work, so she says yes and flies from Australia to Thailand. But plans change and instead of helping Adam sail back home, Summer joins her.
Before I get to the mystery, a note about the writing: according to the author bio, Rose Carlyle is a sailor herself, once sailing from Thailand to Africa with her family. The scenes on Bathsheba are full of heart, longing and desire. The language is lush and you can just feel her passion for it all. It’s wonderful to read.
The story is told in the present, but peppered with flashbacks to the twin’s past. Their father was a son-of-a-bitch, wealthy and successful, and thrice married. He didn’t have children with his first wife – he wanted to build his business first and by the time they got around to it, she was too old. So he traded in for a younger model and had Summer and Iris, and their younger brother, Ben. Then he eventually left wife #2 for another, and started yet another family. After he passed, his will revealed that his entire estate – $100 million dollars – would go to the child who has a baby first. The race was on.
I’m not giving away anything that’s not on the inside flap of the book by saying that mid-trip Iris finds herself alone on the yacht. And when she finally gets home and Adam thinks she is Summer, she goes along with it. What’s the harm? Adam won’t be heartbroken, Tarquin won’t be without a second mother, and really, there’s no one to miss Iris. And Iris would finally get everything she thinks she deserves.
But it’s not that simple.
The Girl in the Mirror has a few twists and is a satisfying story. My favorite parts are the loving descriptions of the ocean and the yacht. There’s a scene where Iris dives into the sea and swims around and underneath the yacht to check on something, and just imagining that gave me chills. I love walking out into the ocean, thinking about the unknowns, what lies beneath, wondering where the undersea land drops off. It’s exciting and scary at the same time.
I enjoyed this book and think that Rose Carlyle is a hell of a talented author. She’s clearly an adventurer with a great imagination and it will be interesting to see what she comes up with next.
You will never catch me on a sailboat, though, because I would somehow find a way to get hit in the head or thrown overboard. Too much responsibility and danger. I’ll stick with songs and stories of the sea to get my fix.
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