Updated: Aug 3, 2020
A dark and haunting novel of a woman on the edge of reality.
“Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body”
A seventy-two year old widow finds this sinister note on her morning walk through the birch trees near her cabin. It was written in blue ink on a page of lined paper from a spiral notebook and was weighted down by black rocks. There is no body, but our narrator, Vesta is shaken and determined to create a personification for Magda and find her killer. Her tenaciousness soon turns to an obsession as she invents a list of suspects and motives for the murder. Somehow, with her imagination running wild, her suppositions just might have found some traction. But then Charlie her beloved dog goes missing.
DEATH IN HER HANDS is a haunting atmospheric tale of a self-isolating woman who is losing touch with community, reality and herself. Vesta lives in a remote cabin on a lake all by herself with only Charlie for company,. She has no phone, an unreliable car and little desire to interact with anyone other than Charlie. The note gives her a purpose and her research on how to solve a murder and her imagination serve her well.
The writing is good, and the loneliness, tension and angst throughout the book is highly perceptible. Vesta’s character, while frustrating at times was well developed. The story, a little obtuse for my liking is perhaps a metaphor for crime writing. The ending however, morphes into something totally unexpected and leaves you questioning your own grip on reality.
This was my first novel by author Ottessa Moshfegh. Her debut novel, Eileen (2015), won the Hemingway Foundation/ PEN Award was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, it was a fiction finalist for the National Books Critics Circle award.
Thanks to Netgalley for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher Penguin Press
Published June 23, 2020