The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant
|The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A thoroughly satisfying and out-of-the ordinary story combining the mystery of disappeared girls with a child living through a family break up. It's elegantly written and has a great deal to offer.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: April 2009|
My life might have been so different had I not been known as the girl whose grandmother exploded.
Quite! Poor Pia. Oma Kristel managed to ignite her own carefully-lacquered coiffure whilst lighting the Advent crown and burned to death in front of the entire family. You'd think such a traumatic event might lead her to some sympathy amongst her schoolmates, but it's not so. With the time-honoured tradition of peer group cruelty, she's gossiped about, mocked and ostracised. Who wants to sit next to the girl whose grandmother exploded, after all? It might be catching. So Pia loses a grandmother and all her friends. The only person in school who wants to know her is also the only person less popular than she is - StinkStefan.
And when Katharina Linden goes missing, at a carnival and in broad daylight, it's Stefan who joins Pia in trying to uncover the truth...
Oh, I did enjoy this book. I haven't read anything quite like it for ages. It's a thoroughly satisfying and yet out-of-the ordinary story combining the mystery of missing girls with a child living through a family break up. Katharina's disappearance forces all sorts of suppressed problems out into the open - the stresses in Pia's parents' marriage, the gossip-ridden undercurrents of bad feeling in the town, and the unpleasant tendency to violence you see in frightened people.
Grant blends old myths and legends into her narrative through a kindly friend of the family who tells the two junior detectives all sorts of deliciously shivery scary stories. She also paints a vivid picture of a small town German childhood, which is tremendously interesting. Pia is a great heroine - she's a deep thinker but she's also impulsive and you feel a great deal of sympathy for her as she worries and worries over the possibility of moving to England. Sidekick Stefan is a perfect foil - equally unpopular, he seems to bear his lack of friends with more equanimity.
Tension builds very subtly and the denouement of this book is an explosion of action, all the more affecting because it's not signposted. It's beautifully and elegantly written with wonderful observation and manages a very timeless feel. It's set in the late 1990s, but I very much doubt that it will date.
My thanks to the nice people at Puffin for sending the book.
They might also enjoy The Kiss of Death by Marcus Sedgwick which is set in eighteenth century Venice but has a similarly elegant feel. The Changeover by Margaret Mahy adds a supernatural element to a mystery and coming-of-age.
The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant is in the Booktrust Teenage Prize 2009.
The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant is in the Carnegie Medal Shortlist 2010.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant at Amazon.com.
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