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.
Hosted by Miz B at Should be Reading
To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…
• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?
I am currently reading Quiet Dell by Jayne Anne Phillips who created this labour of love based upon the true life tale of a man who preyed on American ladies in the early 1930’s using the personal columns as a way of making contact. This is a book of two halves, the first where we meet Asta Eichner and her family, the second where we follow the investigation from the point of view of Emily Thornhill a reporter on The Tribune.
I have just finished Before You Die by Samantha Hayes where DI Lorraine Fisher returns to her home town for a break with her sister only to get involved in what at first sight, appears to be a new spate of suicides.
Click on the book cover to read my review
Next I am going to be reading Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly which I’m really looking forward to, after all what would you do if your friend stole your life?
Natty and Sean Wainwright are happily married. Rock solid in fact. So when Natty’s oldest friend, Eve Dalladay, appears – just as their daughter collapses on a school trip in France – Natty has no qualms about leaving Eve with Sean to help out at home.
Two weeks later and Natty finds Eve has slotted into family life too well. Natty’s husband has fallen in love with Eve. He’s sorry, he tells her, but their marriage is over.
With no option but to put a brave face on things for the sake of the children, Natty embarks on building a new life for herself.
And then she receives the note.
Eve has done this before, more than once, and with fatal consequences…
Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to
My Teaser this week is from Quiet Dell by Jayne Anne Phillips
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. NetGalley
They were out of the door, into the car, rolling down the windows and remarking on the plush seats. Grethe saw that Mr. Pierson, Cornelius, she must call him, was still in the house. Perhaps he had forgotten the note. But there he was on the porch and down the steps, and they were all clapping and cheering.