ShortBookandScribes #BookReview – The House of Mirrors by Erin Kelly

The House of Mirrors by Erin Kelly was published by Hodder & Stoughton on 4th April and is available in hardcover, eBook and audiobook. My thanks to Eleni Lawrence for the proof copy.

One of them has killed before.
One of them will kill again.

In the sweltering summer of 1997, straight-laced, straight-A student Karen met Biba – a bohemian and impossibly glamorous aspiring actress. A few months later, two people were dead and another had been sent to prison.

Having stood by Rex as he served his sentence, Karen is now married to him with a daughter, Alice, who runs a vintage clothing company in London. They’re a normal family, as long as they don’t talk about the past, never mention the name Biba, and ignore Alice’s flashes of dark, dangerous fury.

Karen has kept what really happened that summer of ’97 hidden deep inside her. Alice is keeping secrets of her own. But when anonymous notes begin to arrive at Alice’s shop, it seems the past is about to catch up with them all …

The House of Mirrors is a follow-up to Erin Kelly’s debut novel, The Poison Tree. I read The Poison Tree when it came out in 2009, but in all honesty I couldn’t remember anything except the bare bones. In an ideal world I would have reread it before reading The House of Mirrors (just because I would have liked to) but I’m happy to say that it works perfectly well as a standalone and everything is explained that needs to be.

So, The House of Mirrors takes us back to Rex and Karen, their daughter Alice, and the spectres of the past including Rex’s sister, bohemian Biba. What happened in 1997 has been kept hidden as much as possible but like many family secrets, the truth might be about to blow everything wide open. Alice is now grown up and when notes arrive at her shop, followed by the appearance of a mysterious woman and weird phone calls, it sends her down a rabbit warren of discovery.

I loved Alice’s character. I loved her quirky shop, the vintage clothes she sold and her daily #OOTD. I found her volatility fascinating to witness. The story is told either from the point of view of Alice or Karen and there was an element of reading through my fingers as Karen became increasingly concerned at the past coming back to haunt her. This is such an intricately plotted story which never felt like a forced sequel but one that effortlessly seemed to link with the previous book.

Erin Kelly writes such skilfully executed literary psychological thrillers. They remind me of Barbara Vine’s books, intense and twisty stories of dysfunctional families. I didn’t find The House of Mirrors to be a particularly quick read, rather one that I savoured slowly, devouring every nugget of new information and waiting to see if it would implode or not.

I loved everything about this book: the investigative feel of Alice’s viewpoint, the worried vibes of Karen’s, the settings, the characters, the stifling summer heat, and the chapters that fill in the blanks. Oh, and the ending! Who opened that new can of worms? The whole package is just brilliant and I highly recommend.

Erin Kelly is the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Poison TreeThe Sick RoseThe Burning Air, The Ties That Bind, He Said/She SaidStone Mothers/We Know You Know, Watch Her Fall, The Skeleton Key and Broadchurch: The Novel, inspired by the mega-hit TV series. In 2013, The Poison Tree became a major ITV drama and was a Richard & Judy Summer Read in 2011.

He Said/She Said spent six weeks in the top ten in both hardback and paperback, was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier crime novel of the year award, and selected for both the Simon Mayo Radio 2 and Richard & Judy Book Clubs. Watch Her Fall was longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award in 2022 and Erin was nominated for the CWA’s Dagger in the Library. Her most recent novel, The Skeleton Key, was the Waterstones Thriller of the Month in September 2023, has been optioned for TV, won the Genre-busting Book of the Year category at the Capital Crime Fingerprint Awards 2023, and was a Sunday Times top 10 bestseller and a Times number one bestseller in paperback.

She has worked as a freelance journalist since 1998 and written for the GuardianThe Sunday TimesDaily MailNew StatesmanRedElle and Cosmopolitan. Born in London in 1976, she lives in north London with her husband and daughters.


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