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.)
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