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The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden is Helen Grant's debut novel; her follow up, The Glass Demon,  drops this month.  I had to get The Vanishing through Interlibrary Loan because it is not available in county.  It is a great book, was worth the wait, and I hope some library in county gets a copy sometime.  Scratch that--I hope more that somebody gets The Glass Demon in county because I also want to read that and will have to wait six months before I can request it through ILL otherwise (hint, hint).

The setting is small town Germany in 1999; the story is narrated by a girl many years after the events of the year she was ten years old.

Pia is like any other girl in her small hometown until her grandmother explodes in flames at the family's Advent dinner due to granny's overzealous use of hair spray in close proximity to an open flame.  After this happens the story of the ordeal in all its many false incarnations spreads like wildfire all over town and through school.  Pia becomes a social pariah that only the least popular kid in school, StinkStefan, dares to befriend.  Before long the two become inseparable .

During the village's Karneval parade, a girl Pia's age named Katharina Linden disappears without a trace.  Despite the town's thorough search not a clue comes to light as to the whereabouts of Katharina or her fate.  Meanwhile, Pia determines to find out what happened to Katharina.  Fueled by kindly Herr Schiller's fantastical tales of witches, curses and hauntings that plagued the town's history, Pia is convinced that some supernatural, fantastical being is to be blamed for Katharina's disappearance.

Katharina's disappearance mirrors the disappearances of other little girls from the town many decades prior.  The first disappearance resulted in the estrangement of two brothers.  What the town doesn't know until it is too late is that Katharina is only the first of several girls who will disappear that year, unwitting victims in a madman's plot to exact revenge for a decades old perceived betrayal.

A hair raising, heart pounding ending reveals a disturbing twist to the identity of the villain.  A page turner to the very end, this is one book that is hard to put down.  I highly recommend you request it the next time you visit the library.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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