The Vanishing of Katharina Linden
Delacorte, Aug 10 2010, $24.00
In December 1998 at the family Advent Dinner, the extended Kolvenbach clan is a happy group living in Bad Munstereifel, Germany. However, the idyllic life abruptly ends at that Advent when the paternal Oma (grandmother) Kristel Kolvenbach accidentally sets herself ablaze; dying from her burns.
Oma’s granddaughter ten years old Pia becomes a pariah as rumors spread that her grandma exploded; Pia believes it was spontaneous combustion, but either way the impact on her is shunning. The only person at school willing to be seen with Pia the outcast is Stefen “StinkStefan” Brauer, who has no friends and welcomes an exile. They visit elderly Herr Schiller who regales them with ghost stories as the pair of tweeners investigates the disappearance of a number of girls over the years including the recent Vanishing of Katharina Linden.
This is an entertaining odd thriller starring two ostracized tweeners investigating the missing young girls of Bad Munstereifel. However, though the whodunit is clever, it is the small town superstitions that are defense mechanisms of parents protecting their children from the unknown that makes the tale super. This how Pia becomes shunned by people she has known and played with all her life. Helen Grant provides a deep psychological amateur sleuth suspense.