Quiet Dell

A Novel

Quiet Dell

A spectacularly riveting novel based on a real life crime by a con man who preyed on widows: “a brilliant fusion of fact and fiction, Jayne Anne Phillips has written the novel of the year” (Stephen King)—“think In Cold Blood meets The Lovely Bones—but sexy” (People).

In Chicago in 1931, Asta Eicher, a lonely mother of three, is desperate 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, Asta and her three children are dead.

Emily Thornhill, one of the few women journalists in the Chicago press, wants to understand what happened to this beautiful family, particularly to the youngest child, Annabel, an enchanting girl with a precocious imagination and sense of magic. Determined, Emily travels to West Virginia to cover the murder trial and to investigate the story herself, accompanied by a charming and unconventional photographer equally drawn to the case. These heroic characters, driven by secrets of their own, will stop at nothing to ensure Powers is convicted.

A tragedy, a love story, and a tour de force of obsession, Jayne Anne Phillips’s Quiet Dell “hauntingly imagines the victims’ hopes, dreams, and terror” (O, The Oprah Magazine). It is a mesmerizing and deeply moving novel from one of America’s most celebrated writers.
  • Scribner | 
  • 480 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439172544 | 
  • July 2014
Add to Cart
List Price $16.00
In Stock: Usually ships within 1 business day


Visiting QUIET DELL with Jayne Anne Phillips

Mesmerizing and deeply moving, the novel Quiet Dell is about a real-life multiple murder that took place near the town in West Virginia where celebrated writer Jayne Anne Phillips grew up. See a few of the photographs and newspaper headlines that inspired the book. "Creek Song," by Jonathan J. Johnson.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Quiet Dell includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Jayne Anne Phillips. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


After the deaths of her husband and mother-in-law in quick succession, Asta Eicher is left nearly penniless to care for her three children. She seeks a companion through a matrimonial bureau, and begins a correspondence with a wealthy widower who called himself Cornelius Pierson. Pierson promises her the security and support she desires. Within weeks, she and her children are dead. Emily Thornhill, a female reporter and thoroughly modern woman, becomes deeply invested in understanding what happened to this family, particularly to the youngest child, Annabel, an enchanting girl with a precocious imagination. Emily boldly pursues leads from local police in West Virginia. She becomes personally entwined with the Chicago banker who funds the investigation and who is wracked by guilt for not saving the Eicher family from ruin. Together, they are instrumental in seeing the case to its close and finding justice for the Eichers.

“Phillips’s prose is as haunting as the questions she raises about see more

Articles About This Book


Posted on Off the Shelf

Posted by Kerry Fiallo

We all love reading thrillers—from murder mysteries to gripping heists—but sometimes we are even more intrigued by a thriller when it is based on startling true events. Below are several of our favorite examples of fast-paced and suspenseful...

More Books from this Author

From one of America’s most accomplished and acclaimed fiction writers, a 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...

About the Author

Jayne Anne Phillips
Photograph by Elena Seibert

Jayne Anne Phillips

Jayne Anne Phillips is the author of Lark and Termite, Motherkind, Shelter, and Machine Dreams, and the widely anthologized collections of stories, Fast Lanes and Black Tickets. A National Book Award and National Book Critic’s Circle Award finalist, Phillips is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, a Bunting Fellowship, the Sue Kaufman Prize, and an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. She is Distinguished Professor of English and Director of the MFA Program at Rutgers-Newark, the State University of New Jersey, where she established The Writers At Newark Reading Series. Information, essays and text source photographs on her fiction can be viewed at JayneAnnePhillips.com.