From one of America’s most accomplished and acclaimed fiction writers, a chilling, spectacularly riveting novel based on a real life multiple murder by a con man who preyed on widows—a story that has haunted Jayne Anne Phillips for more than four decades.

In Chicago in 1931, Asta Eicher, mother of three, is lonely and despairing, pressed for money after the sudden death of her husband. She begins to receive seductive letters from a chivalrous, elegant man named Harry Powers, who promises to cherish and protect her, ultimately to marry her and to care for her and her children. Weeks later, the family are dead.

Emily Thornhill, one of the few women in the Chicago press, covers the case and becomes deeply invested in understanding what happened to this beautiful family, particularly to the youngest child, Annabel, an enchanting girl with a precocious imagination and sense of magic. Bold and intrepid, Emily allies herself with the Chicago banker who funds the investigation and who is wracked by guilt for not saving Asta. Driven by secrets of their own, the heroic characters in this magnificent tale will stop at nothing to ensure that Powers is convicted. A mesmerizing retelling of a harrowing crime, Quiet Dell is a tour de force of obsession and imagination.


“Phillips, an acclaimed writer of largely contemporary fiction, this time draws on history: a criminal case from the early ’30s.…but if the factual underpinnings of this latest novel are unusual for Phillips, her ability to transform them into a fictionalized narrative place her at the top of her form. Phillips has carefully inserted imagined private moments and just a few fictional characters to create a story both splendid and irreparably sad… As Phillips has proved throughout her decades of fiction writing, there is evil in the world, but there are some who will stand in its way.”—Celia McGee, –The Chicago Tribune

“It is the texture of the telling that elevates this recounting from true crime to the realm of literary eminence. Because Phillips exhibits an extraordinary sense of control over a story with which she passionately connects . . . the author hears every utterance . . Quiet Dell, a novel of reticence, loudly declares that no event is merely one thing and no person simply one way.  As evidenced in the triumphant Quiet Dell, even after the cord is severed we continue . . . and there exist women — Emily Thornhill, Jayne Anne Phillips — perceptive enough to hear, and respond to, the smallest of humanity’s sounds.”
Philadelphia Review of Books

“Despite its superficial resemblance to Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, Quiet Dell isn’t about the psychology or motives of the killer. Emily is fixated on telling the stories of the victims and somehow redeeming Asta’s costly beliefs in kindness and support…There is a glowing beauty to the book’s brave, generous version of history. As Emily’s thinks of her dispatches, so Ms. Phillips might say of her novel: “Love, of course, was her angle.”
–Sam Sachs, The Wall Street Journal
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“Jayne Anne Phillips blends evil, warmth in ‘Quiet Dell’
 Jayne Anne Phillips’ new novel, Quiet Dell, is based upon a real-life mass murder, but it’s not like any true crime book you’ve ever read, nor much like the average whodunit. Sometimes eerie and dreamlike, others grippingly tense, yet warmly human, always written with beauty and emotional power, Quiet Dell is a virtuoso performance by a highly original writer. . . Quiet Dell begins with its only chapter in first person, the voice of 9-year-old Annabel Eicher ….”
Tampa Bay Times

“Phillips’ extensive reporting — she quotes from newspaper stories, letters between Eicher and her ‘suitor’ and the trial transcript — gives the book its considerable heft. And her creation of a Chicago reporter named Emily Thornhill helps to frame the story of the eight-decade-old event in a fresh way. Quiet Dell is a smart combination of true crime, history and fiction tied together with Phillips’ seamlessly elegant writing… As the book proceeds to its dark conclusion, Emily offers readers a glimpse of light.”
—Amy Driscoll, The Miami Herald

The Murder Behind the Myth: Jayne Anne Phillips talks to MaryAnne Kolton
Los Angeles Review of Books

“In a brilliant fusion of fact and fiction, Jayne Anne Phillips has written the novel of the year. It’s the story of a serial killer’s crimes and capture, yes, but it’s also a compulsively readable story of how one brave woman faces up to acts of terrible violence in order to create something good and strong in the aftermath. Quiet Dell will be compared to In Cold Blood, but Phillips offers something Capote could not: a heroine who lights up the dark places and gives us hope in our humanity.”
– Stephen King

“Quiet Dell has all the elements of a murder mystery, but its emotional scope is larger and more complex. It combines a strange, hypnotic and poetic power with the sharp tones of documentary evidence, offers a portrait of rural America in a time of crisis, and dramatizes the lives of a number of characters who are fascinating and memorable.”
– Colm Tóibín, author of Brooklyn and The Testament of Mary.