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Quiet Dell

3.27  ·  Rating details ·  2,087 ratings  ·  421 reviews
A spectacularly riveting novel based on a real life crime by a con man who preyed on widows: “a brilliant fusion of fact and fiction, Jayne Anne Phillips has written the novel of the year” (Stephen King)—“think In Cold Blood meets The Lovely Bones—but sexy” (People).

In Chicago in 1931, Asta Eicher, a lonely mother of three, is desperate for money after the sudden death of
Paperback, 480 pages
Published July 1st 2014 by Scribner (first published October 15th 2013)
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3.27  · 
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 ·  2,087 ratings  ·  421 reviews

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Jun 20, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
this is one of those "labor of love" projects authors undertake that are ultimately more meaningful for them than interesting for their audience. there is nothing bad about the novel, not at all, but it unfolds in a well-intentioned but somewhat self-indulgent way that ends up reading more like a personal, therapeutic exercise than an entertaining novel.

quiet dell is based on a true crime case that haunted phillips; the story of a man in the 1930's who courted wealthy widows through lonely heart
What a mess. I thought I was going to be reading a quasi true crime story about how Harry Powers met and murdered several women who were seeking husbands through lonely hearts correspondence embellished by some fictional characters who would get me deeper into the story. Instead, I got a ridiculous romance, and one of the worst books I have ever read.

OK, here it goes - Emily Thornhill, a completely unbelievable character - orphaned, rich, educated, single, speaking French fluently due to her su
Nov 13, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As we all know, reading is a matter of taste, and two big elements here are not to my taste. First, the love story is too romance-y, even though I understand its purpose, reminding me of how I felt about Orringer's The Invisible Bridge (the one flaw for me in that work of historical fiction was the romance). Interestingly, and perhaps not coincidentally, a principal of each love story is based on, or is a homage to, a relative of the writer. Second, the main theme (of good arising from tragedy) ...more
Ladybug Lynn
The first part of this book was wonderful as we came to know doomed Asta Eicher and her children. It is after the death of the family the book goes downhill. Invented character Emily Thornhill seems to suffer from Bella Swan-itis, everyman falls instantly in love with her (even the gay ones) and need to protect her. Emily's instant love with William was not believable at all and cheapened this story. If only Phillips had stuck to the real people in this case, the book would have been so much bet ...more
Quiet Dell, West Virginia: one can hardly imagine a less appropriate name for a town where a serial killer murdered five women and children in 1931. Haunted by this real-life tragedy that took place near her hometown, Phillips makes much of the contrast between the name’s suggestion of a safe countryside idyll and the gritty reality of what happened there. Her latest novel is an intriguing blend of true crime and historical fiction: it starts off like Little Women and morphs into In Cold Blood w ...more
What an interesting little book! Quiet Dell, WV is a small town where a series of murders took place in the '30s. I started listening to this book and became engaged in the Eicher family and their dynamic, all of a sudden, the story took a dark and dramatic turn, and that's when I found myself re-reading the back cover summary! A serial killer?! A true story?! How intriguing...

Emily Thornhill, lead journalist, does her best to put the facts together and discover what happened to the family that
What was Jayne Anne Phillips thinking? This could have been a wonderfully written portrait of a serial killer and the family he destroyed, and in the first few pages, it is. Enter Emily Thornhill from stage right, and the book loses all its built up poignancy in one single paragraph.

Miss Phillips only wrote 4 imaginary characters - aforementioned Emily, a gay colleague who's sworn to her, an orphan straight out of Dickens who's also sworn to her (or pretty much) and a mother-in-law to the dead
Diane S ☔
3.5 Based on a true case that had haunted the author for decades, Quiet Dell is the story of the murders and investigation that took place during the 1930's, of a serial killer that preyed on vulnerable women. A subject that is not typical for this author, but something that she felt she needed to write.

I remember stories, told by my Aunt about the Lonely Hearts, widows who would write to men, a match up pen pal sort of thing, that has been replaced by computers today. Widows left in dire circu
Whenever I hear about a novel set in West Virginia by a West Virginia author, my muse does the happy dance, and I want to party like it’s 1863 (for the uninitiated that would be the year of West, by God, Virginia’s statehood) where our slogan is Montani Semper Liberi (Mountaineers are always free). Even as I reminisced in Fairmont and Clarksburg, with Hagerstown and Uniontown not to be excluded and thoughts of toboggans (the hats, not the sleds) and thuses (instead of pep rallies) danced through ...more
Andrea Cox
Aug 21, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
by Andrea Renee Cox

I only made it to around page 116 before giving up on this one. Profanity, a couple of expletives, an explicit sex scene (I skipped a couple of paragraphs because it was going into too much detail for my taste), and marital affairs were distracting and unnecessary. Also, Annabel's perspective became quite abstract, which made it impossible for me to follow it. In the back-cover copy, it is stated that the Eicher family was killed, but that had not happened through the 116 page
Oct 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel was slow to draw me in, but once it did (around 75 pages in), I was reminded of why I love her books so much. She crawls so deeply into her characters' souls that I started to feel I was walking in Emily's body. Of course I love that it's based on a real murder story and that it's Midwest and Chicago references feel so familiar to me. It's evocative of the 1931 setting without feeling like a period piece.

I'm not sure I bought the plot completely. I couldn't accept that a single femal
Jul 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I feel two ways about this novel - no actually, three ways.

#1 I love Jayne Ann Phllips and even mediocre JAP is light years better than so much shit that's out there, so there's that.

#2 Beautifully, lyrically written novel about a heinous real-life crime that took place In West Virginia and the intrepid young reporter from Chicago who makes it her life's mission to bring the perpetrator to justice. The first section of novel - which tells the story of the crime is heartbreaking.

#3 The love sto
MaryannC.Book Fiend
I really have a lot of mixed opinions about this one. It was a bit mundane for me in the beginning, then when reporter Emily Thornhill comes into the picture and has this burgeoning love for Mr. Malone was when it became too far fetched along with the witty, gay co-reporter Eric. Plus goofy things like The Gore hotel , Mr. Grimm and a D.A. named Law, just made it too much. This could have been a gripping novel . I got to about halfway through this and put it in my "I give up pile."
Lyn (Readinghearts)
Aug 01, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lyn (Readinghearts) by: the publisher and Netgalley
Quiet Dell is a novel based on a series of actual murders committed in the 1930s by a man calling himself Harry Powers. He does this by preying on widows who are writing to him via the Lonely Hearts Club, looking for someone to talk to and a bit of companionship. In the blurb at the beginning Jayne Anne Phillips states that in her youth she was driven by the scene of the murders and the impression that left has haunted her, eventually compelling her to write this novel.

Not being familiar with t
Oct 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dead Narrator

“Quiet Dell” is a knockout of a book. It’s a blend of imagined and real characters interweaving the story of a lonely hearts killer in the early 1930’s. Harry Powers (just one of his many aliases) reels in early middle aged women through pen pal dating clubs. He writes them letters that misrepresent him as a single, affluent gentleman who wants to find true love and settle down. In reality he’s a married psychopathic con man. Unfortunately one of his victims, Asta Eicher, believes h
James Murphy
Aug 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Quiet Dell begins with the story of a Chicago family lured to its destruction by a monstrous killer who preys on lonely women. The opening chapters, however, which deal with the hapless Eichers, are merely emotional foundation because the narrative quickly switches gears to follow the obsessive pursuit of the news story by Emily Thornhill, a Chicago reporter, who watches the killer brought to justice.

I thought Quiet Dell an unusual novel. Unusual in that rather than telling the story with moder
May 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quite Dell by Jayne Ane Philips is based on a true story of a crime that took place in Quiet Dell, West Virginia, over eighty years ago. The names of the characters whose lives the crime claimed or influenced are real, their thoughts, perceptions, and relationships are imagined. Their letters, the trali transcript, and various excerpted newspaper articles are quoted excatly from orginal documents. Minor day/ date discrepancies reflect discrepancies in the orginal coverage or documents. Jayne Ann ...more
Ron Charles
The competition for crime of the century is steep, but for pure ghoulishness, Harry Powers is a cut above the rest.

As America careened into the Great Depression, a Dutch immigrant in West Virginia began advertising for companionship in lonely hearts columns around the country. The fact that Powers had recently married didn’t slow him down. From the hundreds of women who wrote to him, he selected at least two to fleece and butcher. Among his victims was a single mother and her three children, who
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This story surprised me. I didn’t have high expectations of this half true crime/ half fiction story. But it was surprisingly good. Well written, intriguing, and quick paced. The murder of a family in the 30s follows the family, their close acquaintances, the newspaper journalist, the murderer and even the left living dog. With a wee bit of romance and unmentionable relationships (for the 30s) thrown in for good measure.
Oct 27, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
This work of fiction is based on a real crime involving a con man preying on women. In Chicago in 1931, Asta Eicher, an impoverished widow and mother of three, starts a correspondence with Cornelius Pierson who promises her a happy new life. Just after they first meet in person, Asta and her children disappear. Emily Thornhill, a journalist, becomes involved when their bodies are discovered. With the help of Eric Lindstrom, a photographer, and William Malone, the Eicher family banker, Emily not ...more
Oct 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first part of Jayne Ann Phillips’ novel sets a scene of a family at Christmas; a pageant by the youngest daughter, a family friend at dinner, a toboggan as a gift and an exciting ride down a snowy hill. After this sweet set up, do not go searching online for more information about the Quiet Dell murders, because it will disturb your sleep.

Asta Eicher and her three children would vanish shortly later, and their killer was only discovered when her bank manager insisted that police enter the ho
Dec 21, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
The problem with this kind of hybrid fiction/non-fiction book (and this one is based on a real crime from the 1930s) is that the reader spends the entire time wondering if this or that thing is real or fake. The author says up front what is fictional and what isn't but that helps only minimally here.

The actual facts and circumstances of the murder of a woman and her three children are the most interesting part of this book and, thus, except for the eventual trial, most of the mystery is solved
Allyson Langston
Nov 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Disclaimer: this book "had" me before the first paragraph of the first chapter with it's setting--Park Ridge, Illinois. That's my hometown. My darling, adorable hometown. Suburban Chicago, early curfew, "action ridge," hometown. So I was engaged before the first word, for a big part of this novel involved a family from my hometown that I had never heard of prior to this read.

The Eicher family grew up in Park Ridge and disappeared a little more than 40 years before I was born. Their home still s
Marion Husband
Odd, but I agree with both the 5* reviews and the 1* reviews here on goodreads....I thought it started very well, but then....well, as one reviewer wrote it certainly jumped the shark, and as another wrote, brilliantly I thought, the dialogue would choke a hog....there was something rather unnatural about the dialogue, too formal and stilted - never I'm always I am. I wanted to read far, far more about the murderer's background and far far less about the too good to be true female journalist (on ...more
Aug 05, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I seriously gave up on this book. Don't judge me, I did at least make it to page 249 out of 438. So that's a little more than half. But seriously, the storyline could have turned out fabulous. Instead, you end up reading a really boring book that includes a love affair with a reporter and bank president, which by the way was completely unbelievable. I mean, that whole affair puts the phrase "love at first sight" to shame.

I wish I could have given this book more of a chance, but when I'm having t
Jan 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a historical novel, based on a crime that took place in 1931 in Quiet Dell, West Virginia. Phillips is careful to get all the facts right, but she weaves two additional, seamless stories throughout. In the first section, the reader gets to know intimately the family that subsequently disappears and is murdered. The rest of the book follows key figures in the investigation, the media coverage, and the public eye through the killer's trial. Thankfully, despite its grim central topic, the b ...more
Apr 23, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Awful. All over the place. Can't decide whether it's a bodice ripper, a ghost story or true crime. The dialogue would choke a hog.
Several years ago, I was visiting a friend in Clarksburg, WV. She took me on a sightseeing drive around the area, and as we went past a certain road, she said "there's an area over there called Quiet Dell, where there were some horrible murders." I said "Wow! it just so happens that I *just* bought a novel about that very story!" Now I finally just read it, and it was well worth the wait.

Asta Eicher, an Illinois widow, corresponded with a courtly gentleman who promised her security, companionshi
Janelle Rich
Mar 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joy (joyous reads)
I’m kicking myself for taking almost a year to get to this ARC. Had I know what I was missing, I wouldn’t have waited to so long to read it. But. Despite how engrossing this book was, I still had some misgivings, which I’ll attempt to explore more on my review.

The year was 1931. Asta Eicher, a widow with three children, was almost at the end of her ropes. Lonely and broke, she began corresponding with a charismatic stranger through letters. Harry Powers promised to take charge of the family’s sl
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Jayne Anne Phillips is an American novelist and short story writer. Phillips graduated from West Virginia University, earning a B.A. in 1974, and later graduated from the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa.

Phillips has held teaching positions at several colleges and universities, including Harvard University, Williams College, and Boston University. She is currently Professor of Engl