In Chicago in 1931, Asta Eicher, a widow with three children, is lonely and pressed for money after the sudden death of her husband. She begins to receive seductive letters from a chivalrous, elegant man named Harry Powers, who ultimately promises to marry her and to care for her and her children. Asta agrees to go with him to West Virginia to see his house there, and then to bring her children. Weeks later, all are dead. Emily Thornhill, a bold, independent journalist, one of the few women in the Chicago press, covers the case and becomes deeply invested in understanding what happens to this beautiful family - especially the highly imaginative youngest girl, Annabel - and determined to make sure that Powers is convicted. She also falls in love with the Chicago banker who funds the investigation, wracked by guilt himself for not saving Asta from her tragic end. Quiet Dell is mesmerising, the retelling of a grisly crime at a moment in American history when women were powerless and vulnerable and newspapers were just beginning to make national stories of local crimes. It is a tour de force of obsession and imagination.
From one of America's most celebrated novelists, the spectacularly riveting story, based on fact, of a 1931 multiple murder by a conman who preyed on widows - a story that has haunted Phillips since childhood.
"In a brilliant fusion of fact and fiction, Jayne Anne Phillips has written the novel of the year. It's the story of a serial killer's crimes and capture, yes, but it's also a compulsively readable story of how one brave woman faces up to acts of terrible violence in order to create something good and strong in the aftermath. Quiet Dell will be compared to In Cold Blood, but Phillips offers something Capote could not: a heroine who lights up the dark places and gives us hope in our humanity." -- Stephen King "Quiet Dell has all the elements of a murder mystery, but its emotional scope is larger and more complex. It combines a strange hypnotic and poetic power with the sharp tones of documentary evidence. It offers a portrait of rural America in a time of crisis and dramatises the lives of a number of characters who are fascinating and memorable." -- Colm Toibin "Entertains and asks profound questions about evil, women's role in society, and the American Dream." -- Patrick Neale Bookseller