Review Blog

Mar 25 2010

The vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant

cover image

Penguin, 2009. ISBN 9780141325736.
(Ages 14+) Recommended. Pia is the last person to see Katharina Linden alive. How could she have disappeared from the small community where everyone knows everyone else? Pia is curious and when another girl disappears she begins to investigate.
The setting is a small town, called Bad Munstereifel, in Germany, where gossip abounds, and past events are not forgotten. Ten year old Pia is 'known as the girl whose grandmother exploded' and once this nickname starts, the other children, with the exception of StinkStephan, shun her and she is left virtually friendless.
This is not a story for the young or faint hearted. Even though it is told through Pia's eyes, it is a tale of grisly murders and horrible deceit. The tension is built up as Pia describes her everyday life. The readers sees the disintegration of her parents' marriage as her English mother fails to fit into the German way of life and the petty meanness of many of the children. Pia describes the adults around her and I was left worrying about who the murderer could be and whether Pia would be his next victim. The eventual denouement is quite terrifying and I couldn't stop thinking about it for some time after I finished the book.
Beautifully written, this is a thriller for mature young adults despite the cover that looks as if it were designed for a younger audience. I shall certainly be looking out for any future books by Helen Grant. It was shortlisted for the Booktrust Teenage Prize 2009, and is a CILIP Carnegie Medal nomination 2010.
Pat Pledger

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