In Chicago in 1931, Asta Eicher, a widow with three children, is lonely and 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 ultimately promises to marry her and to care for her and her children. Asta agrees to go with him to West Virginia to see his house there, and then to bring her children. Weeks later, all are dead.
Emily Thornhill, a bold, independent journalist, one of the few women in the Chicago press, covers the case and becomes deeply invested in understanding what happens to this beautiful family - especially the highly imaginative youngest girl, Annabel - and determined to make sure that Powers is convicted. She also falls in love with the Chicago banker who funds the investigation, wracked by guilt himself for not saving Asta from her tragic end.
Quiet Dell is mesmerising, the retelling of a grisly crime at a moment in American history when women were powerless and vulnerable and newspapers were just beginning to make national stories of local crimes. It is a tour de force of obsession and imagination.