Grimm and grimmer fairy tale meets terror in a small German town where girls are being abducted again as they were 50 years ago.
English author Grant's loosely plotted debut opens in Teutonic tragi-comic fashion as the narrator's grandmother, wreathed in hairspray and close to a naked flame, explodes at the dinner table. But domestic horror is only one facet of a story that also includes traditional folk tales, a vision of a gossipy, vaguely malevolent local community, children in peril and the ordinary trials of unpopular, ten-year-old Pia. Daughter of a British mother and German father who bicker constantly, Pia is ostracized at school, her only friend a boy named StinkStefan. When first Katharina Linden and then other girls go missing, Pia begins to ask questions, discovering that some girls also disappeared just after the war, including Gertrud, the daughter of her elderly friend Herr Schiller, whose sinister brother Herr DÃ¼ster is suspected of blame. More girls disappear, Pia's parents decide to separate and DÃ¼ster falls under suspicion again, leading to Pia and Stefan's decision to break into his house. The implausible denouement is composed of an interminable sequence of scares and spooks.
Atmospheric moments punctuate a story marked by uncertainties of pace and logic which, despite gruesome content, is probably intended for younger readers.Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
After an unfortunate incident during family Advent dinner in 1998, ten-year-old Pia Kolvenbach becomes known in her German hometown of Bad Münstereifel as "The Girl Whose Grandmother Exploded." Pia, whose mother is one of only three British citizens in the area, is already familiar with the peculiarities of this insular town, but the ostracism she now faces leaves her with only two confidantes: StinkStefan, a classmate and fellow outcast, and grouchy, secretive Herr Schiller, a source of town lore. Attention soon shifts from Pia when a local girl, Katharina Linden, becomes neither the first nor the last girl to go missing. Pia and Stefan, inspired (haunted?) by Herr Schiller's gruesome stories, become determined to investigate the disappearances. Pia is an effective and sympathetic narrator as we learn the town's dark secrets. First novelist Grant, herself a former British resident of Bad Münstereifel, already has a second novel, The Glass Demon, scheduled for publication in 2011. VERDICT A meeting of Harriet the Spy and The Lovely Bones with a dash of Grimm thrown in, this is an engaging mystery and a tender story of children caught in some very adult circumstances. YAs may be drawn to the spookier fantasy elements.--Jenn B. Stidham, Houston Community Coll.-Northeast, TX[Page 61]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
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.)[Page 29]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.