[446]: Quiet Dell by Jayne Anne Phillips


Simon & Schuster Canada | ARC paperback, 456 pages

Source: Publisher for review

Publication Date: October 15th, 2013

Adult Fiction | Mystery

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

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 slow descent to poverty; and for a time, Asta felt like her life, and the children’s were about to change. A few months later however, they turned up dead. So began the investigation to a killing spree by a man who targeted lonely widows, desperate enough to believe that Harry Powers was their knight in shining armour.

The most tragic of all was Asta Eicher’s family. She had two girls and a boy. The oldest, Grethe, was a girl of fourteen. She had a mental disability brought on by a fever during her childhood. She was simple-minded. The second child was Hart. A boy who was both innocent and an old soul. When their father was killed, he’d had to be Grethe’s minder. The youngest, who was admittedly, the driving force of this novel was Annabel. A precocious child who saw through this world and the after life. There is nothing paranormal about this book; it is mostly mystical. It was a way of telling the Eicher’s story through Annabel’s post-mortem eyes. The thing is, by giving this entire family substance and life, the readers will have no choice but suffer through their sufferings. They weren’t merely an addendum or statistics but actual people. Another thing that broke my heart was that the family had another hope in the person of a family friend. He could’ve easily provided for them. He was rich and unattached. The last Christmas he spent with the family, he had every intention of proposing to Asta. And he did. But he was already too late. In the summer of the following year, their bodies were exhumed from Harry’s farm in Quiet Dell.

This book had me at hello. Between the novelty of the year that was, the romance between the reporter (Emily) and the banker (William), and the relationships between the victims and Harry Powers (aka, Cornelius Pierson), I couldn’t look away. The mystery also unfolded in a slow, deliberate manner; meant to grab the readers until we’re practically panting to see it to the end.

My problem with this novel revolves around one of the things that I’ve loved about this book: the romance between Emily and William. William, who’s married to an invalid. Their romance happened in the blink of an eye; there was no progression. They met and before the day ended, they were kissing. And I don’t know, perhaps it had to do with the era, but a woman whose husband was involved in an affair with somebody else is apparently acceptable then. Women were expected to turn a blind eye. Accept it even. I am used to the instant-love romances in YA, but when I’m reading an adult novel, there is almost an understanding that such a thing doesn’t happen. I almost thought that they had a history that I could’ve sworn I’d missed. But, to no avail.

I also had a problem with Emily being the apple of everyone’s eyes. She’s portrayed as Helen of Troy. Or someone whose beauty attracts them like a moth to a flame. Aside from William, there was her homosexual (or bi-sexual) colleague, and the sheriff, who’d given her the ins while the case was being investigated and tried. Everyone just fell madly in love with her!

Over all, Quiet Dell was a satisfying novel that had its positives and negatives. It’s a shame that something as inconsequential as a romance clouded over the entire experience.

  • Naomi @ Nomi’s Paranormal Palace

    This book sounds very intense but realistic too. Glad to see you enjoyed it. Fab review.

    Naomi @ Nomi’s Paranormal Palace

  • Dang, it stinks that the romance of all things kept this from being a really wonderful read for you. I’ll admit, you sold me very quickly on the book. I’m not huge on mysteries, but there are some that just grab my fancy, and this sounds like one. I’ll have to seek out a copy! 🙂 Great review, Joy!

  • Insta-love and cheating are usually deal-breakers when choosing books to read, but the story does sound intriguing, so I might still read it. Lovely review, Joy 🙂

  • Ah insta-love and Mary Sue, gotta love them. It does sound like quite an interesting and tragic premise, but too bad it succumbed to some really annoying tropes. Lovely review Joy!

  • Melanie (YA Midnight Reads)

    I love the pic of the book! Anyway, it’s such a pity that this one disappointed you after being so excited about it. Eh, I am not a fan of instant love or romance with no progression, so I can see why this didn’t work for you all that much.

    Lovely review, Joy! <33

  • Ah yes I can understand the problem with the romance not evolving. Mainly as it’s a delicate situation. It’s the first time I hear about this one and maybe I’ll try it but not my priority. Thanks for the review!

  • The love story sounds provoking and a bit tough to condone even if the circumstances sort of allows it. Have you read The Paris Wife? It sounded a bit like this and though I liked it, I remember it infuriated me too. Men are fracking dogs! LOL

  • Does sound satisfying with the era, though I don’t reach much HF

  • Christy

    I’ve heard way too many real life stories of two people marrying, falling in love, etc. after one day, especially back then, to even care. It happened a lot, quickly. So I doubt that would bother me too much. This actually sounds really interesting.

  • Romance definitely shouldn’t be the problem in a book but I actually had this problem way too much.. Great review! Glad you still enjoyed it

  • Ohh, I love your picture in the beginning. <3 So pretty. Though, yeah, not a book for me 😀 But ack. I love your review. And I'm so glad you enjoyed this one. <3 but sorry you had issues with it : Ugh, yesss. I hate when the girl is just so pretty and everyone is falling in love with her and want to be with her. That bothers me a whole lot. Wishing most books weren't like that. 🙂

  • I agree that insta-love has its place, and adult mystery isn’t one of ’em, unless you’re dealing with werewolves of course. 😉 I’m drawn to the Helen of Troy aspects of this story, but the whole Emily / William thing kinda leaves me feeling lukewarm. That cupcake looks yummy BTW! 😀

  • This sounds like you enjoyed it very much, but it’s not for me. Insta-love, cheating, and a Mary Sue main character sounds like a two star review from me. :p

  • I agree that you expect a bit more out of the romance in an adult novel. (I HOPE for it in a YA novel as well, but don’t necessarily expect it. Sorry that the romance spoiled this one for you!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  • Yeah it happened to me too! Sometimes the romance just ruins the whole story! And it sucks when that happens… Great review, Joy! 🙂
    Book Maniac Reviews

  • This sounds fabulous other than the insta-love cheating thing. I am not sure how I would feel about it as well but…I don’t know, I think like you I would be able to overlook it based on the rest of the plot.