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I’m often asked “What inspired you to write The Vanishing of Katharina Linden?” I never get tired of this particular question, because it’s a subject that lies very close to my heart. The book was inspired by the little town of Bad Münstereifel in Germany. It’s the setting of The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, and it’s not a fictional place-–it’s a real town, and we lived there for seven wonderful years.
When we moved to Bad Münstereifel in 2001 my husband was anxious that I would be bored. “You can walk from one end of the town to the other in about two minutes,” he said. Actually I found Bad Münstereifel the most fascinating place. It is like stepping into the past. There are cobbled streets and old half-timbered houses, beautiful old churches and creepy castles. I’ve always loved folk tales and legends, and Bad Münstereifel has lots of those. The stories which Herr Schiller tells to Pia (the heroine) in the book are all genuine Bad Münstereifel folk tales. They were collected and published around 1910 by a local priest called Father Krause. I came across some of the stories in anthologies and went to read the originals at a library in Düren. They were written in old-fashioned German and printed in the Gothic type that was very popular in Germany at that time, which made it extremely difficult to read them! But I persevered because it was such an amazing journey of discovery for me. There was one particular character who really stood out, and that was “Unshockable Hans”, the miller who was not afraid of anything, even witches and ghosts. There are a number of stories about him. He seemed to represent the spirit of the town–-forthright, God-fearing and intrepid. I wanted him to be a central character in my book. I liked the idea that the heroine, Pia, would be inspired by his bravery to do her own investigations into the disappearances in her home town.
People sometimes ask me about the ending of the book, as it isn’t entirely a happy one for Pia, given her family situation. I think this reflects my own feelings about having to leave Bad Münstereifel. I loved living there so much, but I always knew that one day we would have to leave. That sadness is part of my love for the town, and Pia’s too. I’d like to think that The Vanishing of Katharina Linden is a memorial to a wonderful place and time in my life.
(Photo © Gordon Grant and William Bond)
In a nice small German town, young girls start disappearing. We experience the growing unease in town through the eyes of 11 year old Pia who is determined to unravel the... Read morePublished 2 days ago by Tom Alaerts
There is much to admire and enjoy in this story. The first person narration is engaging and, at times, funny. Read morePublished 11 months ago by RueRue
The author weaves together old German folklore with a modern mystery. I really liked the main characters, 2 schoolchildren, who see and understand things in the way that children... Read morePublished 20 months ago by Slick
If we're all being honest here, the fact is that I wanted to read this book because I liked the cat illustration on the cover. Stupid, I know. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Melissa N.
Surrounded by fairy tales and mystery as well an unusual death by combustion of her grandparents, the young heroine is ostracized by her playmates. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Neker
One of those rare stories within a story, but plays consistently, never losing flow, which can be hard to maintain in weaving in and out of narratives as such. Read morePublished on January 20, 2013 by Jamie Wilson
"The Vanishing of Katharina Linden" is a truly unique book, a dark fairytale entwined with a chilling crime story. Read morePublished on October 1, 2012 by Isara
Thoroughly enjoyed this book & will look for more from Helen Grant. If you like intelligently written mystery sprinkled with humor and lacking the distasteful gore that too many... Read morePublished on June 26, 2012 by painting sunsets
The Vanishing of Katharina Linden has all the classic aspects of a good fairy tale. Mystery, suspense, wonder, childhood fears, darkness, and just the right bit of morbid flair. Read morePublished on May 17, 2012 by alli_g