Lately, life hasn’t been easy for 11-year old Pia. First her grandmother explodes during Christmas dinner, then young girls start vanishing is her small village. To top it all, her classmates irrationally connect the two and Pia is branded as unlucky. Only Stinky Stevan has the courage to commit social suicide and talk to her.

In search for justice, they decided to investigate the disappearances, amidst a community traumatized by the realization that evil might be living next door.

This was a good Halloween read, a mix of psychological suspense and horror. The first part of the book subtly builds up tension, and the rest is more action-based, with a dose of gruesomeness that could compete with the likes of Stephen King.

But what makes this book stand out is that it’s so hard to categorize (take that as a compliment, Ms Grant!). It’s a mystery involving a child sleuth, so it includes comic moments and quirky observations. The writing is fluid and mistakenly makes readers assume the story is all breezy, but then you get hit with pretty sinister moments and topics. Even guessing the solution half-way through didn’t soften the climax.

Setting the book in 1999 in a small German town was also surprisingly refreshing. Helen Grant is British, but you can tell by her descriptions of German life that she lived there, not only through the national celebrations and food, but more importantly through details like the way children address grown-ups or people’s reaction to anything connected to WW2.

Grant also lived here for a while, so I’m hoping she’ll release a book about la vie Bruxelloise. Also: how great is that cover?!

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