Christie's Reviews > Promise Not to Tell

Promise Not to Tell by Jennifer McMahon
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Feb 02, 11

bookshelves: favourite-books

Jennifer McMahon’s novel Promise Not To Tell is a gem of a story which, as promised on its cover, once I started reading, I couldn’t put down.

"Part ghost story, part whodunit, and part coming-of-age tale…[it] takes you through the twisted world of adolescent friendship, betrayal and murder," says author, Pam Lewis. Yeah, I know these little endorsements are meant to entice readers- but Lewis is telling the absolute truth.

Kate Cypher returns to rural Vermont to care for her mother- who is showing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Her arrival back home coincides with the murder of a local girl; a murder almost identical to one that took place 30 years ago.

The beautiful thing about Promise Not To Tell is its gorgeous, complicated (but not convoluted) layers. Kate’s visit home forces her to recall her childhood friendship with Del, the victim of that decades old crime. Bullied and mocked by the other children, Del befriends Kate if only because Kate, too, is an outsider. (She and her mother live in a hippie commune.) Theirs is a friendship of necessity - a friendship where secrets are bartered and withheld, but I think it is also a friendship that is poignant and true. It has to be for the book to have the authentic emotional impact it has.

McMahon’s writing is perfectly pitched and the book is alternately spooky and insightful. The characters are well-drawn, even minor-characters. More importantly, as the story unravels, you don’t feel cheated by the denouement.

I loved every minute of this book.

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