Quiet Dell

Jayne Ann Phillips, Author
Jayne Anne Phillips. Scribner, $28 (480p) ISBN 978-1-4391-7253-7
Reviewed on: 08/12/2013
Release date: 10/15/2013
Hardcover - 352 pages - 978-0-224-09936-3
Open Ebook - 480 pages - 978-1-4391-7255-1
Book - 978-1-4423-6671-8
Hardcover - 675 pages - 978-1-4104-6607-5
Paperback - 445 pages - 978-1-4391-7254-4
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-09-959025-5
Hardcover - 443 pages - 978-0-224-09935-6
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At the core of this sprawling new novel from the author of Lark and Termite is a series of real-life murders committed in 1931. A man calling himself Cornelius O. Pierson woos Asta Eicher, mother of three and recently widowed, in polished letters promising fidelity and financial security. After Asta disappears with Pierson, aka Harry Powers, the killer returns to Asta’s home in Chicago to kidnap and brutally murder her three beautiful children. In Phillips’s retelling, Emily Thornhill, a lovely staff writer for the Chicago Tribune, covers the case with her photographer colleague, Eric Lindstrom, and the Eicher family dog, Duty. She falls in love with the Eicher family banker, William Malone, who bankrolls much of the investigation, but she also becomes enthralled with the memory of the three dead children: simple Grethe; her brave brother, Hart; and their precocious little sister, Annabel. Phillips’s plot is engaging, romantic, and fecund; her characters are beautiful, accomplished, and good—except for the bad guy, who is very bad indeed. The book veers dangerously close to melodrama, and the story drags when trying to stick too closely to the truth, but Phillips is a reader’s writer. For every tedious page of the murder trial, mired in the story-lethal muck of facts, there is one of soaring lyricism. The best bits are Phillips’s recreation of her characters’ dreams, and especially the ethereal afterlife of the enchanting young Annabel, who is only nine when she is killed in a muddy field in Quiet Dell, W.Va. Agent: Lynn Nesbit, Janklow & Nesbit Associates. (Oct.)
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