Reading every book that Minette Walters writes is part of my addiction to crime fiction (see my previous blogs on crime fiction, Ian Rankin, In a dry season and Robert Galbraith). Hers are always gripping, dark and provide a different take on murder than those books written with the detective as the main protagonist. It hadn’t really struck me that it had been a while since I’d last read one, until I read an interview with her in the Saturday Guardian which explained she’d had a break from writing, but was back with her new book The Cellar.
It’s great. It’s very different from her others and oppressively almost entirely set within one small suburban house. It centres on the subject of modern day slavery in the UK, following the story of Muna who is taken from Africa as a child and forced to live in a cellar as a slave to the woman who took her, the woman’s husband and two sons.
The set up felt all too real for a lay person not knowing much about the subject, but remembering fairly recent horrific cases in the news, where a couple of individuals had made a break for freedom after years and years of being trapped as slaves in seemingly normal London neighbourhoods.
Muna is beaten, raped and lives in perpetual fear, until all that begins to change when the youngest son goes missing. This brings police, translators and solicitors into the house, giving Muna the potential for escape and forcing the family to dress her in normal clothes and to allow her to sleep in the house rather than the cellar. As you are drawn into this world, a fantastic plot unfolds and the tables begin turning in the house.
I’d always recommend Minette Walters and this one is great.