I discovered Helen Grant’s first novel, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, a few years ago when I was browsing a free magazine that had dropped through the letterbox. The novel had been shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal, a well-respected prize for children’s and young adult fiction. I was intrigued by the book description: young girls going missing in the German town of Bad Münstereifel.
Having lived in Germany briefly many years ago, I was drawn to the setting and the promise of a mystery story interweaving local legends. I wasn’t disappointed.
The Vanishing of Katharina Linden is a wonderfully creepy, but also humorous, story about 10-year-old Pia Kolvenbach who, ostracised from her friends because of an unfortunate incident involving her grandmother, finds herself befriended by the town outcast, nicknamed Stinkstefan. Together they embark on a highly dangerous mission to discover why so many girls are going missing from the town. Helen Grant weaves together a chilling mystery, local myths about a wonderful character called Unshockable Hans, Pia’s family problems and a strong sense of setting, bringing to life the festivals that mark the calendar year in this very traditional German town. The ending is thrilling.
Get The Vanishing of Katharina Linden here.
Helen Grant’s second novel has as its inspiration the medieval stained-glass windows of Steinfeld Abbey which were sold in the nineteenth century to a dealer in England. In The Glass Demon 17-year-old Lin Fox finds herself and her family in danger when they move to Germany so that her academic father can do some research to find a set of missing medieval stained-glass windows. But someone doesn’t want the windows to be found and is prepared to kill to keep them hidden. Again, Helen Grant weaves together a story of a dysfunctional family, a medieval mystery, a teen romance and a dangerous killer. Very dark and compelling.
Get The Glass Demon here.
Wish Me Dead returns to the town of Bad Münstereifel and follows the fortunes of Steffi Nett and her friends. On Walpurgisnacht (Witches’ Night, 30th April) they decide to visit the derelict house of Rote Gertrud, the witch of Schönau. Once there they make a wish. The frightening thing is, everything that Steffi wishes for comes true. People start to die. Steffi worries that she is to blame. A compelling teenage thriller.
Get Wish Me Dead here.
Helen’s Grant’s next three novels form a trilogy (Forbidden Spaces) and are set in the Flemish part of Belgium, where she lived for a while after moving from Germany. Silent Saturday, Demons of Ghent and Urban Legends follow Veele de Keyser and her struggles to outwit a serial killer who seems intent on destroying her and her family.
Like the standalone novels, the Forbidden Spaces trilogy has a very strong sense of place. The threat to Veerle is enhanced by the action being set in, respectively, an abandoned castle, the rooftops of Ghent and down a sewer. These books are dark, gripping thrillers and belong firmly in the young adult/adult crossover market. Highly recommended.
I’ve loved all Helen Grant’s books so far and I’m looking forward to reading whatever she writes next!
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