The Vanishing of Katharina Linden

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden

by Helen Grant

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Overview

After Pia’s grandmother dies in a freak accident, the neighbors in her little German hometown of Bad Münstereifel glance at Pia with wary eyes. But then something else captures the community’s attention: the vanishing of Katharina Linden. Katharina was last seen at a parade, dressed as Snow White. Then, like a character in a Grimm’s fairy tale, she disappeared. Ten-year-old Pia and her only friend, the unpopular StinkStefan, suspect that Katharina has been spirited away by the supernatural. Their investigation is inspired by such local legends as that of Unshockable Hans, visited by witches in the form of cats, or of the knight whose son is doomed to hunt forever. Then another girl vanishes, and Pia is plunged into a new and unnerving place, one far away from fairy tales—and perilously close to adulthood.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385344180
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/26/2011
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 366,049
Product dimensions: 5.15(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.65(d)

About the Author

Helen Grant was born in London. She read classics at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford, and then worked in marketing for ten years in order to fund her love of traveling. In 2001 she and her family moved to Bad Münstereifel in Germany, and while exploring the legends of this beautiful town she was inspired to write her first novel. She now lives in Brussels with her husband, her two children, and a small German cat. Delacorte Press will publish her second novel, The Glass Demon, in 2011.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One    


My life might have been so different, had I not been known as the girl whose grandmother exploded. And had I not been born in Bad Munstereifel. If we had lived in the city—well, I'm not saying the event would have gone unnoticed, but the fuss would probablyonly have lasted a week before public interest moved elsewhere. Besides, in a city you are anonymous; the chances of being picked out as Kristel Kolvenbach's granddaughter would be virtually zero. But in a small town—well, small towns everywhere are rife withgossip, but in Germany they raise it to an art form.  

I remember my hometown as a place with a powerful sense of community, which was sometimes comforting and sometimes stifling. The passing of the seasons was marked by festivals that the whole town attended: Kareval in February, the cherry fair in the summer,the St. Martin's Day procession in November. At each one I saw the same faces: our neighbors from the Heisterbacher Strasse, the parents who gathered at the school gate every lunchtime, the ladies who served in the local bakery. If my family went out to dinnerin the evening we were quite likely to be served by the woman my mother had chatted to in the post office that morning, and at the next table would be the family from across the street. It would take real ingenuity to keep anything secret in a place like that—orso everyone thought.  

Looking back on that year, those were innocent days; a time when my mother cheerfully allowed me at the tender age of ten to roam the town unsupervised—a time when parents let their children out to play without once entertaining the horrific notion thatthey might not return home again. 

  That came later, of course. My own problems began with my grandmother's death. A sensation at the time, it should by rights have been forgotten when the true horrors of the following year unfolded. But when it became clear that some malevolent force wasat work in the town, public opinion looked back and marked Oma Kristel's death as the harbinger of doom. A Sign.  

What was really unfair about the whole thing was that Oma Kristel hadn't so much exploded as spontaneously combusted. But Gossip is Baron Munchhausen's little sister, and never lets the truth get in the way of a good story. To hear the tale retold on thestreets of Bad Munstereifel, and especially in the playground of the Grundschule, which I was attending at the time, you would have thought my grandmother went off like a blaze in a Chinese fireworks factory, filling the air with cracks and pops and dazzlingflares of colored light. But I was there; I saw it happen with my own eyes.       

  Chapter Two    

It was Sunday, December 20, 1998, a date that will be forever marked in my mental history. The last Sunday before Christmas, the day we were to light the last candle on the Advent crown, the last day of my grandmother's life, and, as it turned out, thelast time the Kolvenbach family would ever celebrate Advent.  

My mother, who at that time was one of only three British citizens living in Bad Munstereifel, had never quite come to grips with German Christmas customs. She usually forgot about the Advent crown until the first Sunday was upon us and the only ones leftwere tatty lopsided efforts stacked up outside the supermarket on the edge of town. This year's crown was a sad-looking affair with four improbable blue candles squatting uncomfortably on a ring of artificial greenery. Oma Kristel took one look and marchedoff to get a proper one.  

The one she bought was a beauty: a big coronet of dark green foliage interwoven with crimson and gold ribbons and decorated with tiny Christmas baubles. Oma Kristel carried it into our dining room as ceremoniously as though it had been a jar of frankincensefor the infant Jesus Himself, and set it down in the middle of the table. My mother's crown, with the unseasonal blue candles, was relegated to the sideboard and eventually, still unlit, to the trash. If my mother had any opinion about this, she did not expressit other than by a slight tightening of the upper lip.  

That Sunday a special dinner was being planned. As well as Oma Kristel, we were also expecting my father's brother Onkel Thomas, Tante Britta, and my cousins Michel and Simon, who had all traveled down from Hannover. My mother, who normally had a robustattitude toward German housekeeping, had worked herself up into a state of frenzy over the cooking and cleaning. Our house was one of those old traditional Eifel houses, constructed of a kind of half-timbering called fachwerk; wildly picturesque to look at,such buildings are low and dark inside, with tiny windows that admit only the stingiest amount of daylight and make the cleanest rooms look dingy.  

The menu proved to be an equal source of stress; Onkel Thomas was a man of very plain tastes and would as soon have thought of eating witchetty grubs as something non-German. My mother tormented my father a little beforehand with threats to serve up curryand chips, but in the end the prospect of Onkel Thomas pushing the dinner around the plate with a fork like a pathologist investigating a stool sample was simply too much. She determined to make Gansebraten, roast goose with a stuffing of Leberwurst, muttering,"Anything with Leberwurst in it is sure to be a hit with Thomas and Britta."  

While my mother was putting the finishing touches to the goose, and my father was uncorking the wine, Onkel Thomas and his family arrived. Onkel Thomas almost blotted out the light as he came through the front door, his shoulders filling the frame. TanteBritta, a tiny woman with sticklike limbs and a birdlike swiftness in her manner, followed him, and behind her came Michel and Simon.  

In Germany, it is considered proper that a child should go and shake hands when meeting someone; I hated doing this, and hung back, but Oma Kristel pushed me forward with a well-timed poke in the back. Reluctantly, I held out my hand to Onkel Thomas, whoenfolded it in his enormous fleshy paw.  

"Hallo, Pia."  

"Hallo, Onkel Thomas," I replied dutifully, willing him to let go of my hand so I could wipe my fingers surreptitiously on the leg of my trousers; Onkel Thomas always had clammy hands.  

"You've got bigger," he commented in his hearty way.  

"Um-hmm," I murmured, then with sudden inspiration, "I must go and help Mama in the kitchen." 

  With some relief I escaped into the kitchen, where condensation was running down the tiny windowpanes and my mother was moving about frantically through the steam with rather the effect of someone stoking the boiler in the engine room of a steamship. Shefixed me with a steely gaze.  

"Out," was all she said.  

"Mama, Onkel Thomas and Tante Britta are here."  

"Oh, God," was my mother's encouraging remark. She shooed me out of the kitchen and back into the living room, where I discovered Michel eating the last of the chocolates that St. Nicholas had brought me on December 6. The ensuing rumpus lasted until dinnerwas ready, and my mother emerged from the kitchen with a harried expression to tell us that we could take our places at the table. She regarded Michel's red face, blotchy with crying, and her upper lip tightened again, but she said nothing. Discretion is thebetter part of valor; she went back into the kitchen and finished carving the goose.  

The moment my mother announced that dinner would be imminently on the table, everyone rushed to the bathroom, Oma Kristel included. Managing without a last-minute cosmetic repair job was simply not an option with Oma Kristel, whose one overriding vicewas vanity. None of us had ever seen Oma Kristel without makeup, or with her hair au naturel; the latter was always set and sprayed into a sort of glistening silver helmet.  

Today the hairdo had wilted slightly because Oma Kristel had been into the kitchen several times to dispense advice about the making of glazed peaches to go with the roast. She therefore took an enormous can of hairspray like some sort of torpedo intothe bathroom with her, as well as her bulging bag filled with expensive lipsticks and industrial-strength wrinkle removers.  

Oma Kristel looked good that day, as my father, Wolfgang, and his brother Thomas lugubriously agreed at the funeral. Always careful with her diet, she had retained an elegant figure right into her old age, with slim legs encased in sheer stockings andfashionable little black leather shoes with high insteps and pointy toes. She wore a skirt of some velvety black material, unsuitably tight and undeniably chic, and a shocking pink mohair sweater cinched at the waist with a thin black belt. To her bosom, whichstill had a jutting appearance reminiscent of a wartime pinup, she had attached a large diamante brooch like a medal pinned to a uniform. I like to think that, as she took her final look at herself in the big bathroom mirror, she was satisfied with what shesaw.  

At any rate, she spent some time touching up her makeup, so that my mother was actually putting the plates on the table before Oma Kristel got to the hairspraying bit.  

"Oma Kristel!" my mother called in a tentative voice, not liking to adopt too strident a tone toward her strong-minded mother-in-law.  

"Mama!" bellowed Onkel Thomas, who was less sensitive on such topics, and who was no doubt looking forward to gorging himself on the goose and Leberwurst.  

Oma Kristel patted her hair into place, and then sprayed it with the dedication of a car mechanic giving a BMW a paint job. She managed to frost her bosom and shoulders with the stuff too, until the pink mohair was glistening with tiny droplets and therewas a fog of hairspray hanging over her. Then she put the can back into her bag and marched straight to the table. 

  The main lights were out and my father was standing ready with the box of matches poised to light the Advent crown. Oma Kristel just shot him a look that said "Who's in charge here?" and stretched out her hand for the matches. She slid open the box, extracteda match, and struck it with a flourish.  

The flame flared up in the gloom of the unlit room, a tiny golden beacon. For a moment Oma Kristel held it aloft, then the unthinkable happened. The match slipped out of her fingers and fell straight onto her pink mohair bosom. With a whooomph! like thesound of a gas furnace firing up, the hairspray with which Oma Kristel had doused herself ignited, obliterating her in a column of flames.  

For one ghastly and endless second there was silence, and then all hell broke loose. Tante Britta let out a full-blooded horror-film scream, pressing her hands to her face. There was a crash as my father floundered around in a tangle of chairs, tryingto lay hands on something that would douse the flames. Onkel Thomas, struggling to take off his jacket to wrap around the blazing figure, was swearing mindlessly, his eyes round with horror. Both Michel and Simon were howling with terror. I think I was in thesame state myself; for days afterward my throat was hoarse with screeching. My mother, who had just come through from the kitchen with the roast goose in her oven-gloved hands, dropped the whole thing on the quarry-tiled floor, where it exploded on impact.  

Only Sebastian in his high chair remained unmoved by the whole thing, apparently under the impression that this was part of the normal Advent entertainment. The rest of us panicked. And then at last with a horrid finality Oma Kristel pitched forward ontothe dinner table in a explosion of shattered wineglasses and broken crockery.  

My father and Onkel Thomas finally sprang into action; my father upended a jug of mineral water over Oma Kristel's smoking remains, and Onkel Thomas spread over the whole mess the jacket he had finally managed to remove. It was too late for Oma Kristel,however; she was mouse-dead, as the Germans say. The shock had stopped her heart with the finesse of a sledgehammer smashing a carriage clock. Her still elegantly shod legs akimbo, she looked like a shopwindow mannequin, and not like Oma Kristel at all. Inthe silence that followed, Sebastian at last began to cry.

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The Vanishing of Katharina Linden 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 43 reviews.
sharno22 More than 1 year ago
The characters, German countryside, and local lore make for a wonderful read. Highly recommended.
sspare on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was extremely excited to receive this book as part of LT's Early Reviewers program, and I was not entirely disappointed by my expectations.I won't go into plot details, as my fellow reviewers have already done so. The author took a tired idea (disappearing children) and made it into a well-researched, unique story. This book was very well-written throughout. My biggest problem (and the reason I could not give it more stars) is that the pacing was very slow. I stuck with it for the sake of this review, otherwise I would have abandoned it earlier. I liked it, but when I got to page 200, I was really frustrated that nothing much had happened yet.On page 215, things changed and the plot moved at an exilharating pace. I read the remainder of this book while home alone, in the dark. At one point I had my hand over my mouth, and I was so spooked I didn't want to leave my chair to walk down the unlit hallway. Grant crafted a stunning climax, and I love her for that. I just wish the rest of the book had been as gripping, especially since she did everything else right.
macart3 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Bad Munstereiffel is small German town that ten-year-old Pia Kolvenbach inhabits with her younger brother, father, and British mother. Known as the girl whose grandmother blew up during Advent, Pia is ostracized from her classmates and regulated to being friends with the least popular boy in the school, StinkStefan, when the vanishings start. First it's Katharina Linden in her Snow White costume during Carnival, but as more and more girls Pia's age start to disappear, Pia wants to discover who is making these girls disappear.This book is a wonderful piece of craftsmanship, combining mystery, horror, and suspense with the town's local history. Helen Grant is a master storyteller in depicting small town gossip, the intricate relationships between people, and the mystery behind the disappearances. A fantastic read and highly recommended.
Kayla-Marie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First Line: "My life might have been so different, had I not been known as the girl whose grandmother exlpoded." This was such a fun book. There were so many little things about this book that made it really enjoyable. First off, it has a beautiful cover! The cover was the main reason I picked the book up in the first place. I also loved the setting of the book. Helen Grant's description of the small German town was so vivid and charming. I really want to visit it during one of its festivals. The German setting was made all the more prominent by the addition of German words thrown in every now and then (with a handy German glossary in the back of the book for reference). Pia was such a great character. All of the characters were very well-written. And the ending was truly a surprise. Sometimes the sentences would be awkward and the vocabulary wouldn't seem appropriate for a story revolving around a ten-year-old (even if the story is aparently told by the main character, Pia, when she is 17 or so). I'm not talking about the German cuss words either, but just some 10-dollar-words, many of which I don't even know the meaning of much less an elementary-school age girl. I can understand why the U.S. doesn't market this as a young adult book like other countries. High school students could enjoy it, sure, but not middle school age kids.
fig2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Along the lines of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden has a smart, resourceful 10-year-old protagonist. Pia Kolvenbach is wise beyond her years, and brave and thoughtful besides. Pia's cross to bear is the unceasing teasing she receives since her grandmother's accident involving massive amounts of hair spray and an open flame. This deadly combination does, indeed, result in her grandmother's death. Pia is amazed at the mirth and laughter her traumatic experience causes others. Aggravating that situation, is the increasingly uncomfortable relationship between Pia's parents. When young girls start disappearing in her tiny German town, Pia is desperate to know the cause. She discovers that the vanishings echo others from the distant past. Pia reluctantly teams up with classmate Stephan -- known as StinkStephan -- and they begin to unravel the current mystery, which also unravels the past mystery.Pia is a great character. She's not as "precious" as Flavia DeLuce, Alan Bradley's heroine of TSATBOTP, and is a much more grounded character with real life problems and emotions. While I adore Flavia's spirit and spunk, Pia is her more serious, troubled twin.There are a couple of scenes which are gruesome and uncomfortable to read, and the subject matter is dire, but the novel never loses it's light touch. Grant is quite deft at dancing the line between too real and not real enough - quite a feat in this instance.The Vanishing of Katharina Linden is a great, smart, intriguing read. The characters are well developed and the story crackles with suspense. I highly, highly recommend it!Thank you, Early Reader Program, for another delightful and satisfying read.
sshartelg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This mystery by English author Helen Grant is definitely a page-turner.The year is 1999 and the book's protagonist, 10-year-old Pia, has recently been ostracized by most of her friends and classmates b/c of her grandmother's strange and dramatic Christmas-time death.So when little girls start vanishing from her small German town, Pia decides that she is going to be the one to uncover the truth behind these disappearances.Aided by the only classmate who still wants to be her friend (the equally ostracized Steven, or StinkSteven as he is cruelly called by most of his classmates, including Pia) and the Grimm fairy-tale-esque stories of the town that she is told by one of its oldest residents, Pia sets out to discover who - or perhaps what - is responsible for the disappearance of four of the town's young girls.Both funny and creepy, the mystery kept me intrigued until the very last pages. And Pia's is a fresh and authentic voice!
janeajones on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Drenched in hair-spray, Kristel Kolvenbach struck a match to light the Advent Wreath on December 20, 1998. In her haste, she dropped the match onto her lacquer-drenched mohair sweater and burst into flame. For the next year, ten-year old Pia Kolvenbach would be shunned and looked upon with suspicion in the small German town of Bad Munstereifel as the girl whose grandmother exploded. According to Frau Kessel, it was this event that harbinged the onset of The Evil. Abandoned by all her previous friends, Pia pals around with another unpopular child, Stefan Breuer, known as StinkStefan.Shortly after the New Year, young girls, girls the age of Pia, began to disappear from the village, seemingly into thin air -- the first was Katharina Linden. Caught up in the town's fear and paranoia, Pia and Stefan find solace in scary folk tales about the town's history told by the ancient Herr Schilling, who treats the children as intelligent beings. Pia and Stefan begin to uncover clues about the town's old secrets and sleuth for the mystery of the girls' disappearance.I found the mystery entertaining, suspenseful and a quick read, but it struck me as more as a young-adult book than a layered adult mystery. It is as much a rite-of-passage story as a thriller. The folklore is cleverly interwoven into the tale, and adds to a satisfying read.
bc104 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a passable mystery about a 11-yr old German girl who becomes the school pariah and then is left with her only friend being StinkStefan and an 88yr old man who tells the children haunting tales. To try to re-stablish her place as an insider at the school the 11 yr old, Pia sets out to solve the disappearance of young girls from this quiet German village. There was sufficient in the setting and the relationship of the old man and the children. This was a quick read.
AddlestoneBrowsing on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I agree with other reviewers that "The Vanishing of Katharina Linden" had hints of the Grimm brothers writing style (and maybe that's why I liked it so much)--the story itself was kind of creepy and scary, but I found myself really getting into the story. It was well-written and enjoyable. I always enjoy book with a little bit of a magical twist and this book gave me that. I would highly recommend it to anyone.
reader247 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This story starts out a little slow but by halfway it picks up steam. Pia is a ten year old girl. She has gotten by relatively unnoticed in school until her Grandmother explodes and the other children can't get over it. When a young girl disappears in their sleepy little town, still Pia doesn't blend in and gain back her privacy. Things pick up from there and Pia is befriended by another class outcast. The two set off on together to find out who dunnit.
sunqueen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I sometimes found the pacing of the story a little uneven, but overall found this to be a good read. I liked the point of view as told by the young girl, but would have liked just a bit more explanation at the end.
carinac on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First off, it took me about a quarter of the book to realize that there was a glossary at the back of the book with German terms in it. The book is riddled with German words and at first I thought I was going to have to guess my way through the German words, as only a couple of them had the definition of the word in the text. But, I was happy to find the glossary, and I was repeatedly flipping back there for the definitions of certain words.The book is about Pia who wants to be the girl who solves the Katharina Linden case, not the girl whose grandmother had exploded. This book is not particularly about the disappearance of Katharina Linden but of a chain in the events that has changed Pia's life in the span of a year.Everything takes place in a small town, in which everyone knows everyone business. And, they think they know everything that is happening in their town, except for one small thing the disappearance of young girls in the town.Pia, is a normal ten year old girl in this town, that is until Pia's grandmother dies an unexpected death, death by explosion. With everyone knowing everyone's business this piece of news spread like wild fire and now Pia is the girl whose grandmother exploded. Then, girls start to go missing. To try to wipe her name clean as the girl whose grandmother exploded Pia goes on the hunt for the missing girls with her sidekick StinkStephen.I really enjoyed the book, it is all in Pia's point of view. Although, at the end, I felt as though maybe everything didn't all go together as nicely as it should have. Not, to give anything away, I will just say I wanted more explanations at the end.
rglossne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a coming of age story. Pia finds herself set apart from her school mates as a result of her grandmother's dramatic death by fire at the family Christmas celebration. Soon, her only friend is StinkStefan, another school outcast. As young girls begin to disappear in their small town, Pia and Stefan find themselves compelled to investigate. Set in a small German town in the late 1990s, with eccentric neighbors, old world customs and the memory of World War II still compelling, this is a quick read. Pia's life and worldview change completely, as her parents' marriage falls apart, her town becomes an unsafe place and someone she trusted is revealed to be not at all what she believes. I truly enjoyed this book, and would recommend it especially to young adults.
goose114 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In a small town in Germany little girls begin to vanish. The main character, an eleven year old girl with a past that ostracizing her from her peers, begins searching for these missing girls. The history and folk stories of the town are weaved in and provides clues for the current mystery at hand. Searching for where the girls have gone and who is responsible brings old suspicions to the surface and divides that town. The story is a fun read. It has an almost supernatural mystery feel to it while maintaining a real world aspect. At times I wanted to slap the main character for being so difficult in situations, but overall it was an enjoyable read.
DrApple on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a charming book! Katharina becomes a social pariah in her elementary school after her grandmother spontaneously combusts during a family Chiristmas celebration. When children begin to disappear from the small German town where she lives, Katharina begins to investigate. The mystery is sound and Katharina's life is both hilarious and tragic. The only reason I didn't give this book a 5 is that the German terms slow the story from time to time.
Litfan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pia is a 10 year old girl in a small village in Germany whose life turns upside down when her grandmother "explodes" and girls start to go missing. The disappearances are a shock in the community, in which everyone seems to know everyone and which has been, until now, untouched by such crime.Grant is a very good writer and she particularly excels at giving a vivid picture of life in small-town Germany. She paints a setting that is at one moment cozy and inviting, and the next ominous and threatening. Pia's character is well-developed and gutsy; she's a fun narrator. There are some supernatural elements injected in the story as fairy tales and legends, told to Pia by a neighbor, come to life in her imagination. The story builds to an almost unbearable level of suspense as Pia and her friend try to solve the mystery, at times suspecting people in their town and at other times, suspecting that forces from another realm might be at work.The ending was a bit of a let-down. I can't really explain why without giving away spoilers, so I'll just say that some of the shocking twists weren't quite shocking to me, and some of the behavior of the characters toward the end was so illogical as to become frustrating and distracting.That is really my only quibble with what overall was a fantastic, creepy and atmospheric novel. Pia's astute perspective was at times funny which was a welcome relief from the fright induced by some parts of the novel. A very enjoyable read.
Risa15 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Although the book is titled The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, she only plays a brief part in this novel. The heroine is Pia Kolvenbach, almost eleven ,who has an awful problem. Her grandmother, Oma Kristel was horribly burned and died after a terrible accident. Her fellow classmates think she exploded and that Pia might do the same, so she is ostracized by them and has only one friend known as StinkStefan. She is also friendly with an elderly resident Herr Schiller who tells her and Stefan story tales reminiscent of the Brothers Grimm. Living in a small German village, Bad Munstereifel, she is allowed freedom to explore the area until Katharina disappears without trace. Then another girl disappears.She then decides that with the help of Stefan, she will solve the crime and the two of them proceed to do so, not realizing the danger they will put themselves in.Readers who enjoy reading stories about young sleuths will find this novel to their liking.
rainbowsoup on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The 'Vanishing of Katharina Linden' is an interesting read. I had checked out several reviews on Amazon before I had started it. Grant's book was likened to a fairy tale reminiscent of the Brother's Grimm with an even more evil twist. I definitely agree! It is a modern Hansel and Gretel told by two thirteen year-old German school children, who look for a killer of missing children. I admit that I had a hard time getting into the German sprinkled liberally throughout the book. Many of the words are common and I was half way through before I realized that there is a German glossary in the back of book! Enjoy the read - the second half picks up rapidly.
sprocto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There is quite alot going on in this book - small town folk lore, ghost stories, kidnaps and coming of age... But it all ties together very nicely. I hope to read more from Helen Grant! This book grabbed me in the first chapter and didn't let me down.
lahochstetler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not being a reader of fantasy or fairytales, I took a chance on this book, and was pleasantly surprised. This book is a rather dark coming-of-age story, replete with child abduction and parental hysteria. Young girls begin disappearing from a small German town, and eleven-year-old Pia Kolvenbach desperately hopes to solve the mystery. Pia is something of a misfit: her only friends are the similarly unpopular "StinkStefan," and her late grandmother's sometimes boyfriend. The elderly gentleman delights Pia and Stefan with regional folktales, which add to the ambiance for two youngsters in a town gripped with hysteria. As the town grows more fearful Pia faces her own problems, as her parents marriage is falling apart. These tales ultimately weave together into a dramatic conclusion. That conclusion will likely not surprise most readers, and as a whodunit, this book falls flat. As a more general work of fiction the book is stronger. Grant does a particularly good job of setting the scene, bringing the reader into the town of Bad Munstereifel. The holidays, the festivals, the landscape with all of its interesting corners for children to explore: all of these are vividly detailed. That said, I never did get a good sense of why Pia was so intent on solving the mystery. There's a small subplot about Pia's grandmother "exploding" (i.e. burning to death) at Christmastime. Theoretically this is what thrusts Pia into the depths of unpopularity. This was probably the weakest thread in the larger work. This is a book to read for the environment it creates.
silenceiseverything on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received an ARC copy of The Vanishing of Katharina Linden as part of the First Reads program. I was excited to receive this book because it seemed like it had a great plot. Missing girls that seem to magically disappear. A town giving in to stifling paranoia. A ten year old girl determined to figure out what's going on. Amazing premise! However, the book seemed to fall a bit short and I was very underwhelmed while reading it. The Vanishing of Katharina Linden doesn't really start off with a bang. But I can appreciate that. The author seemed to be going for more of a creepy build-up and it worked after about fifty pages in. But those initial fifty pages had me wondering whether or not I should put this down. I didn't because I really wanted to know what was going to happen, which brings me to my next point. The Vanishing of Katharina Linden got going around page 50, yet on page 60, I already guessed who the killer was (and ended up guessing right). It was completely predictable, especially since I guessed this. I'm not the type of reader who will try to guess who the killer is in any mystery. Sure, I suspect, but half of the fun of a mystery is going through the whole ride and then being completely shocked at who committed all the events. I'm fine with this premise as long as it makes sense and isn't throwing a curveball just to throw a curveball. But if you guess who the killer is at the beginning, it kind of sucks the fun out of the mystery. Another thing that bothered me was Pia's character. She just seemed to be all over the place. I didn't find her endearing, mostly just irritating and her friend Stefan, even moreso. They acted very irrational for ten year olds. Yes, I know that ten year olds aren't the most rational of human beings. But I don't think any ten year old would go through the lengths those kids did in trying to find out who was kidnapping little girls considering it would be life-threatening. I know I would've never done that at ten years old. Sure, I would've been curious, but I would never go out and single-handedly try to stop it. I would be thinking that my life would be at stake. So, while, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden did end up to be a page-turner and literally kept me at the edge of my seat (particularly in the last 50 pages), I still thought it was just okay. It could've been great, but it was just too predictable. Plus, it left me with unanswered questions regarding how the kidnapper didn't kidnap one who was so close in the midst. It was just a "suspend belief" moment. It was just "meh".
jnavia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book! It¿s scary and grisly, but not gruesome (like many thrillers are). The story is told from the point of view of a young adult Pia Kolvenbach, remembering the year she was ten when her town experienced the disappearance of a number of young girls her age. I don¿t think I¿d call this a young adult novel, though I think some young adult would like it. I had a little trouble with the ending (believing the motive), but the fact that it¿s told from Pia¿s point of view, and the fact that maybe she wasn¿t quite sure of all the details, makes it more believable. Characterization is fantastic, with school-kid taunting, small-town rumors and family problems pervading Pia¿s world. Grant¿s depiction of Bad Münstereifel, a very small German town where everyone knows everyone, and the sense of place seems very well done.
MollyChase on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was a mystery in many ways, and I liked it. As an Early Review book I was not so sure what I was getting into. The puzzle was if this story was heading into the magical world, or if the villain was truly real. This puzzle was at times frustrating, but by the end of the book, I realized that this added to the storytelling wonderfully. The book was well written and I enjoyed the German words that were scattered throughout the book. I was very grateful for the mini German dictionary at the back of the book. The only reason I did not give this a 5 star rating is the middle of the book was slow. The beginning was fast paced and I loved meeting all of the characters in the book. How can you not love a grandmother blowing up at a holiday dinner? The middle seemed to drag - I was uncertain where the story was headed. Was the evil force a person, or something out of the fairy tale stories scattered through the book? But by the last 1/3 of the book, I couldn't put the book down. I agree with another of the reviewers - I wish that there was more at the end from Pia. Does her life continue to be strange, or has she finally removed herself from the fantastic loss of her grandmother?I would definitely pass this book along to my friends to read. I look forward to other books by Ms Grant - I enjoyed her writing style.
jmchshannon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set in Germany, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden has all the hallmarks of a fairy tale. In fact, Pia and Stefan remind me of Hansel and Gretel, trying to solve an adult's problem at the age of ten. The German setting adds a certain charm to the entire novel. Ms. Grant does a tremendous job of describing life in Germany in the 1990s. In fact, I felt like I had stepped back in time and was living in my little German apartment again. The use of German words is quite liberal and also sets the tone, but for those not familiar with any German, Ms. Grant provides a complete list of the words used and their definition. The overall effect is a novel that could rival any Grimm Brothers' story in its setting and yet dark undercurrent.The best term to describe this novel is as a fairy tale. Everything about it screams morality tale. Yet, this is not a traditional one. The bad person in this novel is far too human and far too dark, making him or her scarier than any evil witch or stepmother the Grimm Brothers created. The mysterious evil is too realistic and raw to have any element of fantasy attached to it. It is a compelling combination.The Vanishing of Katharina Linden is one of those novels that I thoroughly enjoyed while I was reading it yet could easily pick apart once I finished. The story itself is fairly predictable yet still provides enough shock and awe to make it enjoyable. Pia is likeable but extremely naive. She is a lot more innocent and yet daring than most ten-year-olds I know, including my son. Combine that with an extreme lack of street smarts, and it makes for an interesting heroine who survives on luck, her friendship with the more street-savvy Stefan, and a bit on that naitivity. While I liked the novel, I am left wanting to like it more than I did. There were too many crises in Pia's life with too many competing story lines that the main mystery seemed overshadowed at times. Even worse, there are many unanswered questions. There were several comments made by minor characters and statements hinting at future revelations that never occur. The end result is a hodge-podge of stories that the reader must delve through to get to the overarching point of the story. It works, but the end result is not as satisfactory as it might be.I wish I could say I loved The Vanishing of Katharina Linden. On the surface, there is so much to love. Yet, once a reader delves deeper into the story, the little flaws start to add up and detract from the main story. At times the novel does read like a YA or middle grade novel, and I can definitely see someone younger really enjoying the novel, as he or she may be more likely to overlook those flaws or not even notice them. In the end, I'll remember The Vanishing of Katharina Linden more for allowing me to remember what it was like to live in a small village in Germany and for its fairy tale-esque qualities. A trip down memory lane is never a bad thing!
andsoitgoes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set in Germany in the late 1990's, this mystery book about disapparing young girls was interesting yet predictable. I found the the description of the small, German town and their customs interesting but the story line was disjointed and dragged out. I found much of the book could have been eliminated for all it did to add to the story. The main character, Pia, was shunned by her classmates because of an accident involving her grandmother. This, to me, was a real stretch that an entire school would continue to tease and shun a fellow student over this situation. Just one of the problems I had with the story. Hope her next novel is better.