Paul Fenton delivers a wonderful, slow burn of a crime novel with The Cellar Door. It begins as a gentle psychological suspense driven by a woman’s obsession with exploring the cellar of her house after she is fired from her job. The backdrop of the story is the menacing economic situation in contemporary Britain, and it is the greatest threat to Sara and her husband, Zak. As their lifestyle and finances deteriorate, the money pressure presses one dangerous situation after another.
It’s worth noting that the story is written in the first person. I love first person stories but recognize it’s difficult if a writer doesn’t have anything to say. It really becomes boring if the characters are lacking depth. Fenton’s writing doesn’t suffer from boring characters, and his first person perspective is very enjoyable.
Sara and Zak take on a right brain/left brain relationship in their mysterious adventure that really makes the novel work. Their relationship provides a wonderful framework for tension. Sara is a carefree and intuitive individual that rips up floorboard and breaks down walls. Zak evaluates everything carefully and seems to be a splash of cold water at times to Sara’s adventurous nature. In the early part of the novel, Zak states that he knew something was wrong when he saw that crazy look in his wife’s eyes. No detail is given, but he alludes to her manic nature that has caused problems in their marriage. In the second half of the novel, events cause the relationship to change and Sara becomes the right brain. The role reversal sets things up perfectly when the book switches to more of a street crime scenario. For the first few pages after the primary action of the story shifted away from house exploration, I mourned for the first section to come back.
I was totally enthralled with Sara’s searching and could not wait to see what she found next. The books description on Amazon gives the details of what she found, and those details made me purchase book. However, I hope you will just trust me and let Paul take you deep into the cellar.
This novel has many metaphors for the central theme of crumbling order. Perhaps this happened because Paul Fenton writes from a Britain that, like the rest of the Western world, has lost its financial luster. But he goes further to deliver his message. The house is physically destroyed piece by piece. The financial dreams of Zak and Sara crumble. Their marriage is strained. Their role as good citizens changes in the face of their predicament. It felt like I watched a train wreck happen in slow motion. I knew it was going to be bad, but the extreme slowness kept me guessing.
My biggest complaint about the book is the ending. It wrapped up like an episode of Matlock. The detective ties up all the loose ends a little too neatly for my taste. But then the story goes on to address the only unanswered question in the story. For ne it was fat.
You will get your money’s worth out of The Cellar Door by Paul Fenton. I am already planning on reading his second novel.
I give it four severed heads, and these heads are shot to pieces by MP-40s. Thanks Paul it was a great time.
Heads Will Roll,
Heads Will Roll,