VANISHED by Sheela Chari

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Like her grandmother, Neela loves playing her veena, a traditional Indian stringed instrument.  Unfortunately, when she plays in public she always seems to freeze under pressure.  When Neela’s grandmother mysteriously mails her an old and valuable veena, however, Neela feels an instant connection with the instrument.  Playing on her grandmother’s veena is easier and almost a spiritual experience—as though the veena possessed some sort of magic.  But when a rainstorm drives Neela and her veena to seek solace in an old church, the veena mysteriously vanishes from a cupboard.  Neela and her friends Pavi and Matt try to figure out who could have stolen the veena while the possibility of an ancient curse complicates their investigations.

Vanished was a fun, engaging mystery story.  Although the missing veena drives the plot, Chari develops her characters by exploring family and friendship tensions, culture clashes, and the complex moral question of how to define rightful ownership.  Readers who enjoy stories about amateur detectives embedded in a realistic fictional world (such as Siobhan Dowd’s London Eye Mystery, E.L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and Hilary McKay’s Saffy’s Angel) should definitely check out this mystery!

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