Quiet Dell by Jayne Anne Phillips

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The first part of the book drags along a little, however it does pick up after a few chapters.

It is filled with an atmospheric layer of beautiful prose in some parts of the book, especially when what remains of Annabel sweeps over the countryside and looks down upon events and ponders to herself. Other parts of the story, usually involving Emily, are a little heavy on the dramatic side and a tad unrealistic.

Emily Thornhill is a fictional character in the midst of a real crime narrative. That in itself is alright when done in a way that complements the main story. I didn’t think that was the case. In fact I felt there was far too much emphasis put on her love life, her apparent beguiling ways with men, her domestic life and her complicated relationships. It was as if the fictional Emily was vying for more attention in the book than she needed to and in doing so her dominant storyline became detrimental to the main plot. The story of the Eicher family.

The real crime aspect is a fascinating one. Now that might seem gruesome but if you look at it purely from a crime point of view it is actually a highly detailed account of the discovery of a serial killer. A killer, who based on the way he covered his tracks and planned the crimes with such detail had probably been killing for years unnoticed. In fact he had hundreds of letters from lonely women in his postbox in answer to his ads, receiving about 20 replies a day. There are numerous women who disappeared during his lonely hearts ad scheme, a few of them have also disappeared, only a one or two can be linked to him via circumstantial evidence.

Power/Drenthe was never prosecuted for the murder of the entire Eicher family. The evidence was deemed too circumstantial. Quite mind-boggling seeing as he was identified by multiple witnesses, as the person picking up the children, travelling with them en route to the final destination and all four bodies were found on the grounds of his property near his self constructed torture chambers.

The author has omitted some of the more graphic details of their kidnapping, confinement and torture, except for one very particular detail of the crime. What was done to the young boy, the torture and the chambers indicates a killer who was not motivated by money. The money and items gained from his crimes are something he gains, but not his real motivation.

All in all it was an interesting read from a historical point of view, which could have been better if Emily had remained a narrator of the Eicher/Powers story only and her life had taken up a smaller portion of the book.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

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