TITLE: The Cellar
AUTHOR: Minette Walters
For six years, 14-year-old Muna has been a slave of Ebuka and Yetunde Songoli. Having two sons of their own, they claimed Muna from a West African orphanage, then emigrated to England. During her years with the Songolis, Muna suffered much abuse, physical and sexual, but when one of the Songolis' sons, Abiola, disappears, Muna's fortunes change for the better.
To keep the police investigators from discovering their shameful secret, Yetunde claims Muna is their daughter and moves her from the cellar where she's been confined to live when she isn't cooking and cleaning for the family, into a spare bedroom upstairs. Yetunde claims the girl is brain damaged and doesn't speak English, but Muna is far more clever than the Songolis know. Muna has a full grasp of English and slowly realizes how much power she now has, power she uses to manipulate the Songolis in order to better her own position. As the family's fortunes continue to take a downward turn following Abiola's disappearance, Muna's improves.
This novella is a bit of a change of pace for Walters, one of my favorite writers. Told in third person from Muna's pov, this isn't so much of a mystery as it is a psychological suspense story. It is also a disturbing one, and one I found compelling.