Mysterious Book Report The CellarThe Cellar: A Novel by Minette Walters

Penguin/Random House, $24.00, 246 pages, ISBN 978-0-09-959464-2

One of the great things about reading is when you figure out that it’s a voyage of personal discovery . . . and the more you read, the longer your journey into the unknown, which in turn takes you to places you couldn’t imagine before opening that book you’ve just read . . . and ever farther into the ocean of learning. That’s as big a mouthful of metaphor as I’ve ever written. But the truth is, I was inspired to it by this week’s MBR No. 236, the one with the short, humble title.

The Cellar: A Novel by Edgar-awarded, best-selling British author Minette Walters is a compelling psychological thriller that takes the reader deep into the heart, mind and soul of another. It’s a ride that’ll stick with you long after you’ve finished reading.

A young black girl named Muna is stolen from an African orphanage by the Songoli family and taken to England, where for the next ten years Muna is held as a slave. She’s forced to do all of the cleaning, cooking, washing and ironing for ‘Princess’ and ‘Master,’ as Muna is forced to address Mr. and Mrs. Songoli, as well as their two sons. Muna lives in the basement, where there’s no light, no heat, no windows and no escape. She can’t read, or write, or talk to anyone. She’s never been outside the house where she’s imprisoned, never seen the sky or gone to school. She’s regularly beaten with a rod by Princess, forced into sex acts by Master and appears destined for similar treatment by one or both teenage sons in the very near future, because as the older one tells her, “You’re worthless. I can do anything I want to you.” But one day, the Songoli’s younger son Abiola, fails to come home from school . . . and everything changes. Little Muna isn’t quite as helpless as everyone thought she was. She has a scheme of her own: terrifying plans that will affect them all. It’s a nightmare . . . and it’s only just beginning.

Minette Walters has been called a “A rare talent with an unnerving imagination . . .” who “takes the suspense novel into new territory” . . . and “patrols the darkest areas of the human heart.” Nothing in The Cellar contradicts those notions from some of the world’s leading news organizations—with whom I heartily agree. If you enjoy the work of John Connolly, Peter Straub, Stephen King or Robert E. Howard, you’re in for a treat when you discover Minette Walters, who, like Ann Rice, will take you for a ride on the dark side . . . and deep into the psyche of some of the most different human minds anyone ever imagined.


John Dwaine McKenna