Pia Kolvenbach is known as "the girl whose grandmother's head exploded" in a freak accident at the Advent Dinner table. Advent Candle met Aqua Net hairspray...the rest was "history", with which Pia has to live every day. When young girls start to disappear, Pia and her trusty sidekick, StinkStefan, are "on the case". Two pariahs, and the avuncular storyteller Herr Schiller, explore the history of their village, Bad Munstereifel, through folk tales and gossip. Eventually, the dark side of the town begins to show itself, and Pia begins to learn the hard lesson, that people are not always what they seem to be.
I thought this was more a novel of manners, customs, and small town life- not unlike The Little Friend by Donna Tartt. The Thriller/Mystery angle took a back seat to the Town itself...The missing/"vanished" girls were a vital part of the story, but more so as a part of Pia's coming-of-age. The pacing of the story was slow until the last 1/3 of the book. The ending seemed a bit rushed to me, but in hindsight i think it was right, since the leisurely pace of the first 2/3 was good preparation for an ending that wasn't lurid, yet still kept the pages turning.
Pia Kolvenbach was not a precocious child, by any means. She was witty, a bit of a smart aleck, but all told she was just a kid,trying to deal with a situation where even the adults seemed to be at a loss. Curious, selfish, petulant and persistant, she carried this tale on noble 10-year-old shoulders, and lived to tell it years later.
I enjoyed the book and gave it the rating I did , for being both a coming-of-age story..and a mystery about Life itself, as we grow into it. Recommended.
This is a review of an ARC.
3 Stars (***)