cover image The Cellar

The Cellar

Minette Walters, read by Justine Eyre. HighBridge Audio, , unabridged, 4 CDs, 4.5 hrs., $24.99 ISBN 978-1-62231-929-9

Walters’s nightmarish Cinderella story focuses on 14-year-old Muna, who was “rescued” from an orphanage by wealthy Ebuka and Yetunde Songoli when she was eight and has been enslaved by the couple ever since, including being beaten by the wife and raped by the husband. For the last six years, since the horrific Songolis moved from Nigeria to England, Muna has been kept in the cellar of their London townhouse, a situation that improves when the couple’s 10-year-old son goes missing. The arrival of a very observant policewoman forces them to present Muna as their mentally challenged daughter and move her to a real room. Most of the book’s dialogue is spoken by the members of the Songoli household, and reader Eyre’s Nigerian English seems authentic. She’s equally effective at finding a cool, no- nonsense English voice for the policewoman. But the upper-class British accent with which she tells the novel’s story is so clipped it almost qualifies as parody. This distances the listener from Muna’s torturous situation and undercuts the book’s suspense. It also slightly buffers the graphic descriptions of violence and sexual abuse, which some may find a relief. A Grove/Atlantic/Mysterious hardcover. (Feb.)