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The Vanishing of Katharina Linden: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 10, 2010

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Editorial Reviews Review

Helen Grant on The Vanishing of Katharina Linden

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)

From Publishers Weekly

It may seem strange to describe Grant's debut as a charming horror novel, but there's a determined amiableness about the narrative that will appeal to readers who wouldn't typically be drawn to such subject matter. It's December 1998, and 10-year-old Pia Kolvenbach and her family are living happily in the quaint German town where her father grew up, until Pia's grandmother accidentally sets herself on fire and burns to death. A rumor erupts that her grandmother exploded, and, overnight, Pia becomes an outcast. Her only friend from then on is the most unpopular boy in her class, nicknamed StinkStefan. The two of them begin visiting an elderly man who entertains them with ghost stories from local folklore that Pia and StinkStefan hope might help them solve the decades-old mystery of a number of local girls who have gone missing. The story's richness isn't as much in the mystery plot as it is in the finely rendered background, where desperate parents strive to protect their children in an uncertain world, though the simplicity of the narration makes the novel feel lighter than probably intended. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Series: AWARDS: ALA: Youth Media Award Winners 2011
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press; 1 edition (August 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385344171
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385344173
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,808,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Helen Grant was born in London, England. She read Classics at St.Hugh's College, Oxford, and then worked for ten years in Marketing to fund her love of travelling. In 2001 she and her family moved to Bad Münstereifel in Germany and it was exploring the legends of this beautiful town that inspired her to write her first novel. From 2008 to 2011 she lived in Brussels, Belgium. She now lives in Scotland with her husband, two children and two cats.

Helen's debut novel "The Vanishing of Katharina Linden" was shortlisted for the prestigious British fiction award, the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2010 and won an ALA Alex Award 2011. Helen's second novel "The Glass Demon" was nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2011 and was a finalist in the International Thriller Writers Awards 2012, category: Best Paperback Original. Her third novel "Wish me dead" was also nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal.

Helen is currently working on a trilogy set in Flanders, Belgium. The first book, "Silent Saturday" will be published in Spring 2013 by Bodley Head.

Visit Helen's website and read her blog at: or follow her on Twitter at @helengrantsays

You can also see book trailers and short location films on Helen's YouTube channel at:

Customer Reviews

This is where I tell you that I did something I have never done before in a book...I jumped ahead!
The book was from her point of view and she had a wry sense of humor at times, as well as a sharp mind.
In short, a highly recommended novel, for those into mystery as much as those into drama or thrillers.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Sonja VINE VOICE on June 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was drawn to this book because of the editorial reviews proclaiming it to be a "modern fairy tale" and that it would "make the Brothers Grimm jealous." I minored in folklore in college, so those topics were right up my alley. Now, I know that the Brothers Grimm are pretty dark, especially the original versions of their tales. But I guess I'd blocked that out or I thought this book would be toned down in the same way that modern versions of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales are toned down. So I was surprised with just how dark and sinister the tales were in this novel, and many tales are presented through the device of the book's narrator, Pia, going to an older citizen of the town, Herr Schiller, to hear "stories about the town's history" which are really folktales ala the Brothers Grimm (just to be clear, these are *not* the Brothers Grimm folktales but rather folktales in the same vein).

As one can gather from the title of the book, early on a girl by the name of Katharina Linden "vanishes" which leads Pia to wonder if something supernatural happened to Katharina like the things that happen in the stories Herr Schiller tells. Combining the dark stories of witches and demons exacting revenge on townspeople in the days of yore with the very real terror that the parents in the present day town were feeling, scared their child might be next, was quite effective. I tend to read before I go to sleep at night, and when I got to the end of this novel around midnight last night (I couldn't put it down until I finished), the prospect of going straight to sleep was ridiculous. I had to get out of bed, go downstairs and watch a sitcom for half an hour before sleep seemed possible.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kokopelli VINE VOICE on August 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
How can you resist a book whose opening sentence is, "My life might have been so different, had I not been known as the girl whose grandmother exploded"? As it turns out, the "explosion" is only the first in a series of bizarre events that make up this witty, entertaining mystery story. The narrator is a 10-year-old girl living in a small German town where gossip is the liveliest thing happening. This particular 10-year-old is a very perceptive, curious, and clever girl, whose story is appropriate for both young adult and adult readers, and who becomes an outcast among her peers because of her grandmother's strange end. In lonely desperation, she befriends another social pariah, and together they investigate what appear to be serial killings that may have begun decades before. There are clues along the way for the observant reader, but the ending took me completely by surprise.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the author's clever and subtle humor that is sprinkled lavishly throughout. In more than one place, I actually laughed out loud. Irony and wit are used to great effect regarding the foibles of small-town life in general and of small-town German life in particular. There are fair amounts of German references and language throughout, but there's also a glossary of German words and phrases included in the back of the book. The astute reader can pretty much deduce the meaning from the context in any case, but legendary German heroes and villains are also included that an American reader would be unlikely to know. This most definitely does not detract from the story and, in fact, adds an interesting element of information about Germany.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Bluestalking Reader VINE VOICE on August 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"My life might have been different, had I not been known as the girl whose grandmother exploded."

- The Vanishing of Katharina Linden

Fairy tales, despite their intent, are not very well suited to children. Sending a tot off to sleep with images of witches throwing children into an oven, to make them the centerpiece of her dining room table, aren't really conducive to a good night's sleep.

And by good night's sleep I mean not waking up screaming in terror.

Helen Grant builds the framework of her delightful first novel around fairy tales, or rather local legends, surrounding the town of Bad Münstereifel, Germany. After the loss of her paternal grandmother to spontaneous combustion, young Pia Kolvenbach develops an image problem. Previously a happy girl with an adequate number of friends, after the unfortunate demise of her grandmother the local children do what children do best: they ostracize her to the point of complete misery.

Only a boy known as "StinkStefan" befriends her. Though it's essentially social suicide to hang out with Stefan, Pia doesn't have a whole lot of choice. Soon the two become friends, hanging out together and regularly visiting a charming elderly man, Herr Schiller, who regaled them with wild tales just frightening enough to be interesting.

The one person in Bad Münstereifel who wasn't fond of Herr Schiller was Herr Düster, the local eccentric who was everything Herr Schiller wasn't. Unfriendly and unkempt, he was universally reviled in the village. A virtual recluse, he spent most of his time hiding away in his tumble-down house, across the street from Herr Schiller.
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