“As a cloud of black smoke blew out the back of the saw, the chain blade spun into loud motion. He leaned the blade back and slowly lowered it onto the door. When it touched, wood chips began flying all over the landing. It looked like Frank was fighting to keep the blade from sliding. It began to skid, and Frank spread his legs a little more. Then the saw caught on something and kicked back. The full force of the spinning chain threw Frank against the wall. He jumped as the saw, barely in his left hand, swung down toward his legs. It didn’t hit them, but its nose caught the floor. In one short second, the saw dug itself in, shredding and wrapping long strands of green carpet around itself. There, nestled cozily into the floor, it idled. Panting, Frank reached down and turned off the engine.” (78)
Henry York’s parents have been taken hostage overseas, so he goes to live with his aunt, uncle, and three cousins. No one seems overly anxious about their disappearance, and instead his Uncle Frank seems more concerned about opening the bedroom door that’s been locked for two years, especially since his wife is now threatening in earnest to get the locksmith to come open it. Henry soon discovers that’s not the only mysterious door, as his attic bedroom has ninety-nine cupboard doors inside the wall, all locked. In trying to determine what’s behind the multitude of doors, Henry realizes that some doors are meant to stay locked.
I listened to the audiobook for this story quite a while back, and what sticks with me now is Russell Horton’s voice for Uncle Frank, which seemed to suit the crudmudgeny old man to a tea. Horton’s got the inflection down for the girls’ constant quarreling, but the voices for the characters started to sound the same the further along you listened.
The story itself seemed anticlimactic at best, with the majority of the plot consisting of Henry arguing with cousin Henrietta about whether or not they should test the cupboards. The most memorable scene (which I quoted a portion of above) was when Uncle Frank was trying to get the locked bedroom door open with first his shoulder, and then an ax, and finally a chain saw, with little success. Henry expresses no curiosity about what is in the cupboards, and only finally ventures inside at the pleading, cajoling, arguing, and urging of Henrietta. Even still, it’s Henrietta’s disappearance into one of the cupboards that prompts Henry to get assistance and rescue his wayward cousin. What ultimately strives to be Narnia meets Wonderland falls flat, as the dangling plot holes by the end of the book that make the book particularly unsatisfying.