Vanished by Sheela Chari
Neela brings her instrument, a veena to her sixth grade class for the around the world unit. On the way home there's a very bad rainstorm. Neela is offered shelter from the rain by an old man in a church. She's very uneasy about not being able to take her valuable veena straight home. Also the old man is a little strange. The two have an odd conversation in the kitchen. When Neela goes to leave her veena is missing and the man has disappeared.
The veena is very special and rare it was a gift from Neela's grandmother in India. Neela is determined to find her instrument even after her parents tell her to stop.
I enjoyed Vanished a lot and loved Neela's voice. It was also nice to see Neela's parents and younger brother, Seri were a part in the story.
"Like strep throat or the chicken pox, or the Great Plague which Neela read about in social studies, bad luck was one of those things are one of those things are mother tried at great length to avoid. She was training to be a pharmacist, and it was her belief that all human experience was the result of chemistry and luck, good and bad. But mostly bad. Neela's father would always exclaim that's so unscientific. But there was no changing her mother's opinion. Bad luck was an impenetrable force working against them all. Worst of all it was contagious."
Since the suspect list is small, I liked that the other doesn't throw in too many red herrings. The mystery lies more in the how and why the veena was stolen. The story moves along at a great clip. There's a nice hint of creepy and unexplained darkness. The age old curse on the missing veena adds to this feeling. Neela slowly connects the clues and everything comes together in India.
Neela reminded me of Glida Joyce. Both characters have a certain similar quailty that I love. Vanished was a well layered story that was simply a lot of fun. An excellent debut and one of my favorites of the year. I hope this is the first of many books starring Neela Krishnan.