Saturday, November 16, 2013

Quiet Dell, by Jayne Anne Phillips

Jayne Anne Phillips, Quiet Dell. New York: Scribner, 2013. 456 pages. ISBN 9781439172537.

I really enjoyed this historical mystery, set in Chicago and West Virginia in 1931. It tells the story of a Chicago widow who is in dire financial straits. To secure a future for herself and her three children, she puts an ad in a matchmaking publication, begins a correspondence with a man, and makes plans to marry him and move with him to West Virginia. It's clear from the beginning of the book that this doesn't turn out well for her or her children, so this isn't a spoiler. The story is told from multiple perspectives, including her children, her boarder, her banker, and the reporter who investigates the story and learns the truth.

Quiet Dell is wonderfully written and thoroughly researched; it is based on a true story, although the author creates some of the characters as a way to tell the story. The only part of the book that I didn't like as well were the dream sequences and the scenes in which one of the dead children seems to be watching the action. But that's a small detail, and it doesn't take away from the power of the narrative.

Ms. Phillips has published six previous novels, although this is the first book of hers that I've read. I recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction, mysteries, and true crime. It's being heavily promoted and will likely turn out to be a best seller.

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