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The Vanishing of Katharina Linden    by Helen Grant order for
Vanishing of Katharina Linden
by Helen Grant
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2011 (2010)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In her debut novel, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, Helen Grant adroitly blends mystery and legend in the small town of Bad Münstereifel, Germany, where Pia Kolvenbach lives with her English mother, German father, and small brother Sebastian.

Pia's life changes for the worse after she watches her Oma burn like a torch in a bizarre accident during Advent. Pia (the girl with the exploding grandmother) is whispered about, shunned at school, and left to associate with another loner, StinkStefan, 'the most unpopular boy in the class.' Pia introduces StinkStefan to her grandmother's elderly friend, Herr Schiller, who plies them with hot chocolate and recounts local legends, many featuring the Unshockable Hans.

Life goes on in the small town until Katharina Linden vanishes. She was dressed as Snow White for the Karneval and was last seen by the fountain. Though searches are mounted, she's never found. Pia suspects a supernatural agency. Over time, other girls disappear and tensions mount in Bad Münstereifel. After Herr Schiller's sinister brother, Herr Düster, comes under suspicion, Pia and Stefan muster the courage to do their own digging - which leads Pia into great peril and to a terrifying confrontation.

In parallel with the mystery, we see the breakdown of Pia's family, her mother desperate to take her children back to England and away from Bad Münstereifel, her father resolved to remain and wait out the bad times. The Vanishing of Katharina Linden is an excellent YA mystery, full of small town quirky characters (like Frau Kessel who revels in spreading slanderous gossip) and puzzling events. Highly recommended.

Note: At the back of the softcover version is a preview of Helen Grant's second book, The Glass Demon, to be released summer 2011.

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