The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant is definitely going to be compared to The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. I haven't read Sweetness myself, so I don't know if comparisons are justified, but for me, this book was a bit of a disappointment.
Pia is a ten-year-old famed in her small German hometown for being the girl whose grandmother exploded in a freak accident involving hair spray and a match. She has no friends besides one called StinkStefan, her parents are always arguing, and she does not like any of her cousins. When girls from her town begin disappearing, with no clues as to their whereabouts, Pia decides to help find them with the help of her friend Stefan, through the aid of their elderly neighbor Herr Schiller.
I think this story had a great premise, but it just didn't work well for me. I really wish the author had focused her story on the scary German folktales that weaved their way into the story, instead of making those a sideshow to the main (lackluster) mystery event. The folktales were excellent reading, and my favorite part of the story. Unfortunately, they had very little to do with the overall story.
Pia's character wasn't one I warmed to until very late in the game, and I didn't like her parents much, either. In fact, I didn't much care for any of the characters in the book. They could use a bit more fleshing out. I also didn't like the random smattering of German phrases in this book. Perhaps they were put in to make the setting more authentic, but I found it annoying to have to flip to the glossary in the back of the book so often.
I also thought the mystery was a little lame. I figured out whodunit pretty early on (not something I am particularly good at, with mysteries), but I wish there had been more explanation of what happened. We didn't really get any reasoning behind the murders- why some children disappeared while other more obvious choices did not. And we also didn't get any sort of reference on how Pia's friendship with StinkStefan turns out, which also upset me.
While I really enjoyed the folk tales present in this book, and the quaint German town setting full of aging busybodies and cruel schoolchildren, the plot itself didn't hold my interest and I was disappointed by the mystery. I think Grant is a good writer, but I hope her next book focuses more on the folklore and less on the mystery.
It does sound like there are many similarities between this books and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. But since I didn't really love Sweetness then this book probably wouldn't be the right one for me either. Thanks for the review though!ReplyDelete
Eh, it doesn't sound like a book for me. But the folklore aspect sounds niceReplyDelete
Is this the book you were telling me about in Austin? I'm sorry it didn't work for you. I'm not really a mystery fan in general. I plan to read Sweetness, but mostly that's because I read the first 10 pages and loved the tone of the writing so much.ReplyDelete
I get so frustrated when a book with a unique premise or twist falls short in execution. Same with movies. Too bad!ReplyDelete
Oh, it does sound as if this was not a really good book at all. I also agree that it sounds a lot like The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, though I also have not read that one. I think the fact that the characters are so meddlesome and unlikable would really bother me. I like to have disagreeable characters sometimes, but a whole book full of them annoys.ReplyDelete
Simcha- No, I don't think you'd like this one, then. But I guess you never know!ReplyDelete
Blodeuedd- Yes, that was my favorite part.
Amanda- Yes, I think I did tell you about it there. I like mysteries, but this one didn't do anything for me.
Trisha- Yes, it's always disappointing!
Zibilee- Yes, for me to like a book with unlikable characters requires pretty amazing writing!
I just read the second one in the series that begins with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, and it seems to me that it's going to be difficult for the author to continue with the charm of the first one as the series goes on. Imitators will have an even harder time. I'm not necessarily saying that this author set out to imitate Bradley, but that anyone who is just getting on the young- European-girl-solves-mysteries bandwagon at this point in time will necessarily be in his shadow.ReplyDelete
I like this book so far, I'm about 1/2 way through. I also like the Flavia de Luce seriesReplyDelete
The story and characters sound quirky enough to appeal to me, and I love folklore. ;-) It's a shame the mystery was disappointing.ReplyDelete
This would be one to skip for me, based on your review. I can't abide by a book that lets me figure out the mystery too easily and/or that has characters that I dislike.ReplyDelete
The Witches Trinity sounds like the other side of this book.ReplyDelete
I have this one too but have been putting it off for reasons I don't know. Just love Flavia so hesitant to think it could compare. Sorry it disappointed!ReplyDelete
I liked this when I read it - but I was also very excited to read something by an author local to me, perhaps over-excited. :-) It's nice to see that it's being read out in the blogosphere!ReplyDelete