I became a fan of Minette Walters in the nineties, after reading her first novel, The Ice House (1992), I also r
ead The Sculptress, The Scold’s Bridal and many more.
I didn’t write reviews at that time, but I loved her carefully crafted crime thrillers, the way the characters came to life, the unexpected twists, and how there was also a hint of romance. If you haven’t read them yet, and enjoy detective fiction, check them out.
I hadn’t read any of her novels in over a decade, and when I came across The Cellar, published in 2015, I decided to read what she was writing almost 23 years after her first novel.
The terrifying Hammer novella by Minette Walters, bestselling author of The Sculptress and The Scold’s Bridle
Muna’s bedroom is a dark windowless cellar and her activities are confined to cooking and cleaning. She’s grown used to being maltreated by the Songoli family; to being a slave.
She’s never been outside, doesn’t know how to read or write, and cannot speak English.
At least that’s what the Songolis believe.
But Muna is far cleverer – and her plans more terrifying – than the Songolis, or anyone else, can ever imagine …
The Cellar is not a long novel, at about 250 pages, but I wouldn’t call it a novella. I didn’t feel I was reading a short story or brief account. It’s a fully fleshed novel from start to finish.
Although crimes are committed in this novel, and the perpetrator is unknown until the final part, I did find it very different to her original crime novels, whose main interest was solving a crime. The Cellar is not concerned with how the detectives discover the culprit or how this person is brought to justice and equilibrium is restored. The Cellar points a finger at all of us, because it is concerned with why and how events occurred and no one even cares enough to take notice.
The Cellar is an extremely dark, psychological thriller, bordering on horror. At the same time, it’s a contemporary account of cultural misunderstandings and the challenges of immigration on both immigrants and the receiving country. It also deals with sensitive topics such as sexual and emotional abuse, domestic abuse, parenting, corruption in our legal system and psychological illness.
Ultimately, it raises more questions than it answers, about our welfare state, our consciences, and how we protect the children living in our modern western countries, independently of their country of origin.
It’s not an easy read due to the subject matter and because there’s no one to root for in the long-term; main and secondary characters were all unlikable, uncaring, inefficient, unstable or downright evil.
And yet, it’s a terrific novel. I was totally immersed in Muna’s dreadful world. I’m glad Minette Walters disturbed me enough to make me think and rethink about the complex and controversial issues the novel brings up.
I listened to the audio version, which was brilliantly read, right to the chilling ending.
Minette Walters has recently published a historical novel set in the 14th century, The Last Hours, which I’ve just Downloaded onto my kindle, and is currently bestseller on Amazon UK.
Have you read any of Minette Walters’ novels?