Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Quiet Dell – Jayne Anne Phillips

Crime Fiction 4*'s
Crime Fiction

Quiet Dell tells the story of Harry Powers a man who made contact with a widow Asta Eicher, in 1930’s West Virginia through the personal columns of the paper and ended up being arrested for her murder and those of her three children.

Jayne Anne Phillips raises the tension by devoting the first part of the book by letting the readers view the Eichner household in the run up to the fateful meeting between Asta and the man she knew as Cornelius Pierson, one of his many aliases, as we view them through the eyes of Annabel, the youngest artistic daughter, Charles Boyle a former boarder with the family and Asta herself. Although we are aware from the synopsis that the family die, this realistic picture of the family only serves to make the outcome all that more horrifying.

The second half of the book is told from the viewpoint of the fictional Emily Thornhill, an unmarried journalist in her mid-thirties who goes to West Virginia to cover the trial. Emily’s character is a great medium, if a sometimes confusing one, as we witness her falling passionately in love and seeing ghostly visions but reacting in an entirely reasonable manner when she is confronted with the reality of the actions of the accused. Emily tries to understand why Harry Powers acted as he did but I’m not sure that she really succeeds in her quest although, neither did the Judge trying the case.

The author does a fantastic job of weaving fiction with fact in this book which is complemented by primary evidence in the format of photos and excerpts from the newspapers of the time. This book is very much written in the style of the times it is set in with period details and particularly the attitudes of the women who for the most part needed the security of marriage, at times the dialogue seems a little too precise in the effort to underline the fact that this was set over eighty years ago.

I received a copy of book in return for my honest review from the publishers Random House UK, ahead of publication date of 24 April 2014.


A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

18 thoughts on “Quiet Dell – Jayne Anne Phillips

    1. I think you’ll enjoy this one, it won’t be for everyone but despite some oddities in Emily’s character I was really drawn in to the story… It was one of the harder books to review because I liked it despite its flaws!


      1. I am pretty convinced that you are right, Cleo. 🙂
        Some characters give us a hard time; sometimes the author gives us a hard time and – despite all that we can still like the book in question.


  1. Hmm…it still sounds interesting but I think I’ll pass, given the amount of other stuff waiting. Thanks as always, Cleo, for a great, clear and informative review… 😀


    1. Thank you 🙂 It was one of the more difficult reviews to write as I liked it despite having some doubts about Emily’s character… For this reason it isn’t an overwhelming recommendation as I can see it wouldn’t be for everyone.


      1. Yes, they’re sometimes the hardest reviews to write – but also the most useful. Raves and rants are easy-ish but the ones where there are strengths and weaknesses are when it’s most important for the potential reader to get a good overall idea of the book. Which is what you have done here… 😀


  2. This sounds interesting. And just out! That’s lucky as I’m off to a bookshop tomorrow (as usual). I like your clear reviews which say so much but are nice and short too. Have you read Wedlock by Wendy Moore? Also a book about a women who was fleeced and abused by a man – this one is real life too. Set in Northumberland in Georgian Britain


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