New england

Portrait of a paranoiac: Death in Her Hands, by Ottessa Moshfegh, reviewed

Like Ottessa Moshfegh’s first novel Eileen (2015), Death in Her Hands plays with the conventions of noir. Vesta Gul, a recently widowed 72-year-old, lives in a secluded lake cabin in rural New England. Walking her dog one day in the woods, she finds a cryptic note under a rock: ‘Her name was Magda,’ it reads. ‘Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body.’ With no trace of a body or other clues in sight, Vesta pockets the note. Is it a prank, she wonders? Or ‘the beginning of a story tossed out as a false start, a bad opening’? What follows is less