Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Vanishing of Katharina Linden

In Helen Grant's debut novel a precocious narrator, Pia Kolvenbach, ponders the strange disappearances of several children in post World War II Germany. Pia has more than most ten year old's share of problems.

Her grandmother dies in a freak accident, her parents argue, her classmates tease her, and the medieval town is divided against itself. Most of the town is quite willing to believe idle gossip--that Herr Dussel has been kidnapping several young girls. Her only friend, Stefan, wants her to investigate the disappearances.

Grant lived in Germany for six years and she brings a unique perspective--that of an English woman writing about a German town. Notably Pia is half-English. To Pia's dismay her mother wants to take Pia back to Middlesex, England to discover the "English" side of herself.

Despite being ostracized in school, Pia wants to stay in Germany to find out what happened to the missing girls. Ghost stories and fables, mostly unique to Bad Munstereifel, act as a backdrop to the main story. Pia's elderly friend and town historian, Herr Schiller, keeps her well stocked with spine-chilling stories. Pia and Stefan feel compelled to investigate any connection between the town's ghostly tales and the missing girls.

This is a first-rate debut by an author who is worth watching.

For more information about Helen Grant, www.helengrantbooks.com