- Create your FREE Amazon Business account to save up to 10% with Business-only prices and free shipping.
Other Sellers on Amazon
Download the free Kindle app and start reading Kindle books instantly on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required. Learn more
Read instantly on your browser with Kindle Cloud Reader.
Using your mobile phone camera - scan the code below and download the Kindle app.
Enter your mobile phone or email address
By pressing "Send link," you agree to Amazon's Conditions of Use.
You consent to receive an automated text message from or on behalf of Amazon about the Kindle App at your mobile number above. Consent is not a condition of any purchase. Message & data rates may apply.
Death in Her Hands: A Novel Hardcover – June 23, 2020
Enhance your purchase
-Kevin Power, The New Yorker
From one of our most ceaselessly provocative literary talents, a novel of haunting metaphysical suspense about an elderly widow whose life is upturned when she finds an ominous note on a walk in the woods.
While on her daily walk with her dog in a secluded woods, a woman comes across a note, handwritten and carefully pinned to the ground by stones. "Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn't me. Here is her dead body." But there is no dead body. Our narrator is deeply shaken; she has no idea what to make of this. She is new to this area, alone after the death of her husband, and she knows no one.
Becoming obsessed with solving this mystery, our narrator imagines who Magda was and how she met her fate. With very little to go on, she invents a list of murder suspects and possible motives for the crime. Oddly, her suppositions begin to find correspondences in the real world, and with mounting excitement and dread, the fog of mystery starts to fade into menacing certainty. As her investigation widens, strange dissonances accrue, perhaps associated with the darkness in her own past; we must face the prospect that there is either an innocent explanation for all this or a much more sinister one.
A triumphant blend of horror, suspense, and pitch-black comedy, Death in Her Hands asks us to consider how the stories we tell ourselves both reflect the truth and keep us blind to it. Once again, we are in the hands of a narrator whose unreliability is well earned, and the stakes have never been higher.
"Sneezy the Snowman" by Maureen Wright
B-R-R-R-R! AH-CHOO! Sneezy the Snowman is cold, cold, cold. To warm up, he drinks cocoa, sits in a hot tub, stands near a warm fire–and melts! | Learn more
Frequently bought together
Customers also search
Special offers and product promotions
“A deeply affecting story about solitude and lost chances . . . Moshfegh is among the most talented writers working. I can think of no one who writes with greater insight about isolation and the often-macabre manner in which it warps the psyche. At its best, her work is haunting.” —Washington Independent Review of Books
“A searching portrait of grief, loneliness and the comforts of storytelling.” —Huffington Post
“A recent profile of Moshfegh in this newspaper suggested that her stories of detachment are perfectly suited to this moment of global isolation. But her goal isn’t to lull us to sleep; it’s to wake us up. Why aren’t we paying attention? What are we missing? Isn’t it time for us to start seeing the world as it really is?” —Ruth Franklin, The New York Times Book Review
“[An] intricate and unsettling new novel . . . Death in Her Hands is not a murder mystery, nor is it really a story about self-deception or the perils of escapism. Rather, it’s a haunting meditation on the nature and meaning of art . . . Death in Her Hands is the work of a writer who is, like Henry James or Vladimir Nabokov, touched by both genius and cruelty. Cruelty, so deplorable in life, is for novelists a seriously underrated virtue. Like a surgeon, or a serial killer, Moshfegh flenses her characters, and her readers, until all that’s left is a void. It’s the amused contemplation of that void that gives rise to the dark exhilaration of her work—its wayward beauty, its comedy, and its horror.” —Kevin Power, The New Yorker
“Moshfegh’s gift for staring down darkness—for finding spiffy packages for awfulness—is rare and unexpectedly riveting. If art can’t reclaim maimed pasts, erase pointless ones, or promise better futures, a writer who keeps us listening to her alienated female narrators, intrigued by their fates, has managed a feat.” —The Atlantic
“Ottessa Moshfegh is far too interesting a writer to be concerned with the problem-solving at the heart of most mysteries. She prefers questions to answers, and dwelling on what’s mysterious. The concerns that animate Death in Her Hands will be familiar to readers of her other books, including her 2018 bestseller My Year of Rest and Relaxation. What, for example, does it mean to exist in a body? How should one sensibly spend a day? Just how insidious is it to be loved poorly? And what does madness look like when so much of the world seems insane? . . . Moshfegh has a talent for first-person narratives that feel fresh, strange, unreliable and amusing.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Ottessa Moshfegh, the authorial doyenne of hermits and eccentrics, misanthropes and recluses, is back with another novel narrated by an alienated and alienating woman whose uncanny, idiosyncratic voice compels us to read. Death in Her Hands is at once a satire of and metafictional commentary on the mystery/crime genre, a study of trauma’s effect on the psyche, and a reflection on the creative process . . . [a] striking and original contribution to Moshfegh’s remarkable oeuvre.” —The Boston Globe
“Literature’s reigning queen of the profane, Ottessa Moshfegh, is divisive: Readers tend to love her or hate her. If her latest novel is subtler than her most recent works, it’s just as chilling — it could be a jumping-off point for new readers. A self-contained horror story that takes place inside the mind of an alluringly unreliable narrator, the novel follows a 72-year-old widow who has moved with her dog to a large plot of land where they are seemingly at one with nature. When she finds a handwritten note that implies a murder has taken place on her property, she works to solve it as best she can. The narrator’s dark fantasies and less-than-pure thoughts work especially well if you think of Death in Her Hands as a sequel to Moshfegh’s deliciously gross and grotesque debut novel, Eileen.” —Vulture
“A masterclass in suspense.” —The Economist
“Moshfegh is among the most talented writers working. I can think of no one who writes with greater insight about isolation and the often-macabre manner in which it warps the psyche.” —Washington Independent Review of Books
“Dark doesn’t even begin to describe Ottessa Moshfegh’s latest novel, Death in Her Hands. Try horrifying, macabre, fashionably self-referential and exceptionally well-written—a book, as the publisher’s blurb says, that asks us to consider how the stories we tell ourselves both reflect the truth and keep us blind to it. Plus, it’s got a great dog.” —Associated Press
“Moshfegh’s fiction is so often coated in diamond-hard layers of cynicism; in Death in Her Hands, the cynicism is cracked. We can reach out and touch the fragile emotional core. Even as the reader can’t trust Vesta, a classic unreliable narrator, Moshfegh lets us close to her needy heart; deep down, despite her barbed tongue and her self-imposed isolation, she wants to be found.” —Huffington Post
“Death in Her Hands is not so much about solving a death as it is about conjuring a life. In its apparent plotlessness, it posits philosophical questions about the meaning of mortality. . . . Death in Her Hands is a book that casts loneliness and freedom in unexpected lights.” —The Washington Post
“Moshfegh, known for her screwball subversions of genre tropes and her gleefully grotesque sensibility, here offers a thriller that glitters with jagged details and unfolds mostly inside the protagonist’s head.” —The New Yorker (Briefly Noted)
“Part crime thriller, part dark comedy, and totally delightful.” —Good Housekeeping
“This unnerving latest from Moshfegh offers a truly creepy murder mystery while commenting on our relationship to the genre itself.” —Library Journal
“Perhaps the most jarring genre of fiction is the kind that takes you deep into the gradual unraveling of a person's mind. Moshfegh does a masterful job with Death In Her Hands, which follows a protagonist who believes she's solving a murder. The book moves seamlessly from suspenseful to horrifying, retaining the reader's attention all the while.” —Marie Claire
“Cleverly unraveling, linguistically brilliant, and limning the limits of reality, [Death in Her Hands] will speak to fans of literary psychological suspense.” —Booklist
“From her bracing debut novel, Eileen, to her breakout 2018 hit, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Moshfegh has perfected an enervating, claustrophobic style in which complex anti-heroines seek escape through fantasy or delusion. Her latest novel, Death in Her Hands, continues in this vein, depositing a recognizable, Moshfegh-ian protagonist into a twisting, satirical murder mystery.” —WBUR Radio
“A much subtler, more mature book—one in which suffering is developed rather than declared.” —Bookforum
“As strange and haunting as anything of its kind I have ever read, an unclassifiable masterpiece in that twilit border country of literature between crime and magical realism.” —The Week
“Unlike anything else you’ll read all year. It’s Moshfegh at her darkest and sharpest.” —HelloGiggles, Most Anticipated Books of 2020
“When it comes to evoking the jagged edge of contemporary anxiety, there might not be a more insightful writer working today than Moshfegh. That is, if the boundless dark potential of the human psyche is your thing. If it’s not, this atmospheric, darkly comic tale of a pathologically lonely widow and the thrills lurking in her sylvan retreat might not be for you. But, sophisticated reader that you are, you’re not afraid of the dark. Right?” —The Millions
About the Author
- Publisher : Penguin Press; First Edition (June 23, 2020)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 272 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1984879359
- ISBN-13 : 978-1984879356
- Item Weight : 13.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.78 x 0.98 x 8.6 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #168,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviews with images
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Vesta is an elderly widow who recently moved across the country. She purchased a former Girl Scout camp with lots of land. Charlie, a mutt she adopted is largely her only company.
She stumbled across a note during her daily walk in the woods, and she her mind goes on a wild goose chase., creating scenarios that have no basis in reality.
You get glimpses of Vesta's former life, her long and unhappy marriage to her deceased husband, Walter and so on.
There were glimmers of goodness here and there, but largely, I had to struggle to finish this. Not Moshfegh's best work by a long shot.
I don’t even know if the note she found really exists because Vesta is a very unreliable narrator who is losing her mind probably from years of the horrible domestic abuse and loneliness and infidelity inflicted upon her by her stern German husband. Both she and Walter are immigrants albeit from different countries. She is passive aggressive and the cast of characters she concocts keep changing. Her deceased husband gaslighted her with his cruel mind games. He gave her sedatives to keep her docile. He was a Nazi sympathizer. Vesta speaks of abortions and she seems to have had at least one. Walter had his ways in dealing with her pregnancies. “It was messy but necessary”.
She is a bitter and snobby elderly woman who fancies she is above other people and describes them with cynical bitterness. She is living practically off the grid with her dog and Pastor Jimmy’s pontifications on her old radio. Then one of the people in her psychotic world tells her Pastor Jimmy is dead and they are reruns? The time is sometime in the past since she does her library researches while trying to make sense of the note she claims to have found with Ask Jeeves which disappeared by 2005. Then there is the black catsuit she buys. I found that to be odd to say the least.
Taken literally the book makes no sense but I see the similarity of Madgna herself and Vesta.
Charlie’s death is horrendous but Vesta is not a sane person. The end brings the story to a horrible and sad end. But not all in life is pristine or perfect and the ending is as it should be.
Did Vesta really have a dog? Is Vesta Magna? We are dealing with a deranged woman living in a dystopian bubble. Isolation and darkness are felt throughout this novel. Reality melts into sheer madness.
This is not an easy or fun read but it is classic Ottessa Moshfegh who is one of my favorite contemporary fiction writers. Although I am close to Vesta’s age everything Moshfegh writes is so much more than Millennial drivel. I would love to see Moshfegh do a live reading of this book which was written before her last book and kept in a drawer. I am so happy she published it. I will read anything Moshfegh writes. She will go down as one of the greatest writers of the 21st century.
Top reviews from other countries
A clever and compelling story which captures the mind of a woman who has difficulty in differentiating fact from fiction and whose history is gradually revealed to the reader as she struggles to process what has happened to her - both in the present and in the past. Although I thought this was a compelling read and started and finished it in practically one sitting, I found it a rather troubling story and although darkly funny in places it was one that left me feeling rather unsettled - and the scene towards the end, involving an animal, was something I found very upsetting and although I can understand the author wanted something startling to demonstrate the unravelling of Vesta's mind, I feel sure she could have created something better - but obviously I can't discuss this further without revealing spoilers. So, in summary, a clever and thought-provoking story (and not a murder mystery as one might think by the blurb) but one that has left me feeling rather confused about how to rate it fairly by Amazon's star system - therefore I've given it three stars but I've changed my mind several times about the rating - whilst reading the book and even during the writing of this review - and may come back and change it once the story has had time to settle.
I persisted with this book only because I enjoyed her previous stuff, but if it was my first exposure to her work I may well have got bored and sacked it all off. For me the Moshfegh ranking would go like this: 'Homesick for Another World', 'Eileen', 'My Year of Rest and Relaxation', 'Death in Her Hands' (the novella 'McGlue' I'd put in a special category all by itself because I think Ottessa was possessed by some alien when that came out of her - mindboggling). So, bear the ranking in mind when you consider this purchase, but by no means overlook the benefits of reading at least some of what she's written. I'm definitely still a fan.
She's sprightly for seventy odd, didn't like Walter too much. But wow, not sure how to describe this book but Vesta finds a note in the woods next to her secluded cabin in the woods, even though she has neighbours, but not neighbourly neighbours but the atmosphere was all engulfing. I raced through is in a day and a bit, after I'd started and finished The Moon's a Balloon by David Niven.
If I could add infinity stars, I would. But it, borrow it but read it.
crime, don’t pick up this book.
This style of book was not for me. I was hoping for a thriller crime solving book, and instead, I got the ramblings of a bitter old woman (Vesta) reviewing her boring life and her unhappy marriage after the death of her husband. All the while, she is making up what may have happened to this girl and then losing her mind over it.
The only thing I liked about this book was the characterisation of Vesta. The fact that she basically looks down her nose at most of the inhabitants of her small town, hates fat people, and does a rather horrible thing at the end of the novel, made her a wholly unlikeable character and unreliable narrator - and I actually enjoyed that. I liked that she wasn’t a nice old lady. I wasn’t rooting for her or feeling sorry for her. I detested her and I think that was the point. In spite of the great characterisation, I hated the long winded rambling where very little happens. I don’t mind forays into the mundane but this was just boring as hell at some points and the story didn’t really progress. There was nothing to solve. This wasn’t about a murder, it was about her descent into madness - but that isn’t what the book is sold as. It’s a rambling stream of consciousness and not my cup of tea.