Promise Not To Tell (TLC Tour Review)

May 9, 2011

Title: Promise Not To Tell

Author: Jennifer McMahon

Publication Year: 2007

Pages: 256

Genre: Fiction

Source: Review copy from the publisher, through TLC Tours

From the cover:

Forty-one-year-old school nurse Kate Cypher has returned home to rural Vermont to care for her mother who’s afflicted with Alzheimer’s. On the night she arrives, a young girl is murdered — a horrific crime that eerily mirrors another from Kate’s childhood. Three decades earlier, her dirt-poor friend Del — shunned and derided by classmates as “Potato Girl” — was brutally slain. Del’s killer was never found, while the victim has since achieved immortality in local legends and ghost stories. Now, as this new murder investigation draws Kate irresistibly in, her past and present collide in terrifying, unexpected ways. Because nothing is quite what it seems . . . and the grim specters of her youth are far from forgotten.

More than just a murder mystery, Jennifer McMahon’s extraordinary debut novel, Promise Not to Tell, is a story of friendship and family, devotion and betrayal — tautly written, deeply insightful, beautifully evocative, and utterly unforgettable.

This is the first of McMahon’s books that I’ve read, and I may have to find the others now.

Promise Not To Tell is fascinating, creepy, and beautiful, all at the same time. There’s elements of ghost stories and of horror mixed in with family and community conflict and the regrets of childhood and being an adult.

I enjoyed that there were two different narrators at the beginning of the book, so that there was a bit wider of a perspective when being introduced to the story and the central characters. I was sad that this didn’t continue throughout the book, but it didn’t diminish the rest of the story.

There were also two very distinct time periods woven into Promise Not To Tell, clearly delineated by date markers at the beginning of each section. I loved getting to learn more about what Kate had been like as a child and how that shaped the woman she has become in the present day of the story. The secret that she had about her earlier life was intriguing and, at times, astonishing. I couldn’t believe that she hadn’t told anyone at all about what had happened, all these years later, when it obviously haunted her so. And yet, it made sense.

The author did a great job of creating interesting, complex characters and situations, and really sucking the reader into the narrative. I was racing through the book on the edge of my seat at times, wanting to know what would happen, and whether the murders would be solved. I was creeped out and anxious, afraid that bad things would happen, but hoping for good things instead.

Promise Not To Tell is an intense read, and a great story about friendship, love, betrayal, and the mistakes we make both as children and as adults.

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