Lormac's Reviews > Quiet Dell

Quiet Dell by Jayne Anne Phillips
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bookshelves: hated-it

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 summers "on the continent" with her wealthy farming grandparents who lived in Iowa (I guess farmers in Iowa do not need to spend the growing season on their farm), is assigned to cover the Powers case along with Eric Lindstrom, an orphaned, rich, educated, closeted gay photojournalist. They immediately develop a bond that will be lifelong. The first thing Emily does is visit Park Ridge, Illinois where several of the murder victims have lived, and meets the victims' banker - William Malone - rich, noble, educated, who speaks French fluently, and rides magnificent steeds through the local park. He's married, but his wife suffers from an Alzheimer-like illness so when William and Emily fall in love on first sight and immediately develop a bond that will be lifelong, the icky business of his having a wife is just evidence of William's nobility (he decides not to abandon his incapacitated wife). Instead they will just live together on the weekends in Chicago where he has business interests, and, after exchanging rings in the graveyard of the murder victims and speaking their vows from the heart in the presence of the murdered children, they will spend the summers in Paris posing as husband and wife (because he also has business interests in Paris, and they both speak French fluently). Along the way, Emily adopts the murder victims' dog with whom she immediately develops a bond that will be lifelong, and also adopts a street urchin - orphaned, poor, but with a sharp mind and noble character with whom she immediately develops a bond that will be lifelong, well, except for those summers she will spend in Paris with her "husband" during which months, the former urchin will be either attending boarding school (thanks to rich Uncle Eric Lindstrom) or learning French along with his "mother" and "father" in Paris. ARRRGGGHHH. As you can tell, I hated the plot.

Emily careens between being feisty (concocting a plot whereby Powers will be confronted by the dog to see if the dog will "identify" him, although for what purpose this is done is not clear) and being weak and womanly (when confronted by the a grisly detail about the murder, Emily returns to her hotel room, waits for Eric to arrive and then pours an entire jug of water over her head - yes, you heard me - she is so upset she pours a pitcher of water over her head and then stands in the room shivering uncontrollably until Eric takes charge of the situation and has her change her clothes and puts her to bed). ARRRGGGHHH. As you can tell I hated the characterizations.

And the dialogue! When William arrives to attend the murder trial, there is this exchange between Emily and William: "Oh, my darling! I am so happy that you are here." "Yes, my darling Emily, I am here." "You must kiss me now, again and again and again." "Yes, my darling Emily, I will." ARRGGGHHH.

And then there is the priceless scene where, in the middle of blinding blizzard, Emily and William sit in a gazebo by the ice skating rink in the park where the murder trial is being held, and Emily takes his hands and he sees that she has left her underpants off and inserted her pessary (!!) and she proceeds straddle him and to have sex with him in the public gazebo in the snowstorm, after which Emily rushes off because she has to meet with the sheriff (with whom she had immediately developed a deep bond and who is described as having a "powerful torso" and possessing "animal virility") and get important inside information regarding the trial, and check on the urchin and the dog, who she left in her hotel room. ARRGGGHHH!

OK, I think you see how much I hated this book. The most frustrating issue is that after sticking with this book through 14 disks (one complete disk devoted to Emily accompanying the bodies of the murder victims to Park Ridge), I still do not know how the murder victims died, or what was on the murderer's mind as he lured these women and their families to their deaths. That was what I thought the book was supposed to be about, and instead, I got a lot of clap-trap.

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Reading Progress

March 20, 2014 – Started Reading
March 20, 2014 – Shelved
March 29, 2014 – Finished Reading
April 1, 2014 – Shelved as: hated-it

Comments Showing 1-15 of 15 (15 new)

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Jeannine Ha ha all those lifelong bonds! I felt the same about this book. You are a trooper - I didn't make it as far as the gazebo, pretty much abandoning it after Emily arrived on the scene.


message 2: by Lormac (new) - added it

Lormac Well, if you got up to Emily's entrance,you did have to suffer through Annabelle's Christmas tableau, so you still deserve some sympathy.


message 3: by Carol (new)

Carol Well! I just know that I liked this review better than the book. I admire that you stuck with it until the end though. Otherwise, we all would have missed out on the REVIEW....;-)


message 4: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia I immensely enjoyed this review :)


message 5: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Definitely a review that's better (and more entertaining) than the book situation! Too bad, I seem to recall Machine Dreams was good. But that was long ago.


message 6: by Lormac (new) - added it

Lormac Melissa wrote: "Definitely a review that's better (and more entertaining) than the book situation! Too bad, I seem to recall Machine Dreams was good. But that was long ago."

This book was so bad that I was horrified to find that Ms. Phillips is teaching writing at Rutgers. I heard such good things about 'Lark and Termite' that, on behalf of all future writers studying at Rutgers, I hope her body was temporarily inhabited by an evil alien bent on ruining her reputation and depriving Earth of decent new writers.


message 7: by Pat (new)

Pat F. Thanks for taking one for the team on this one. Dang.


Jackie I agree with this review 90%. The missing 10% is because you neglected an ARRGGHHH for the ghost of the dead girl who communicates with the reporter through her dreams, leading to the discovery of important evidence which is then not even used in the trial.


message 9: by Gee (new) - rated it 1 star

Gee Goodness I feel the same! This was a trashy book. Very disappointed with it.


message 10: by Liz (new) - rated it 2 stars

Liz Agree with all these comments. I kept reading because I thought I would get to more of the reason behind the murders but no, just more bad romance novel schmaltz. And then I had invested too much time to not finish the book - very disappointing


message 11: by Marran (new)

Marran Haha well I won't be reading the book after this.. That's for sure... I trust youre judgements on this :-)


Linda Blake Reason for the murders? He was a psychopath who enjoyed luring his prey, playing with his prey, and then sadistically killing them.


message 13: by Lormac (new) - added it

Lormac Yes, but authors writing about psychopaths give them some sort of back story or discuss their warped rationales for their right to kill people. Larsen in "Devil in the White City" fully explores the background and mind of that particular psychopath, and makes him interesting (not sympathetic, just interesting). In this book, Phillips wastes her time creating (what she thinks are) interesting fictional characters, and squanders the real gold mine here - Harry Powers. Maybe he had a god complex, maybe he received sexual gratification, maybe he was abused as a child and is re-playing those scenes with his victims. There was more here that Phillips could have done with Powers, and she didn't do that.


Beatriz Gonzalez I just finished the book and your review is my review. An awful book!!!


Sandra I sincerely wonder why readers would feel compelled to finish a book that they hate? Just saying - so many books, too little time. Don’t waste it. : )


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