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If You Tell: a True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  165,821 ratings  ·  14,176 reviews
A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood

After more than a decade, when sisters Nikki, Sami, and Tori Knotek hear the word mom, it claws like an eagle’s talons, triggering memories that have been their secret since childhood. Until now.

For years, behind the closed doors of their farmhouse in Raymond, Washington, their sadistic mother, S

Kindle Edition, First Edition, 410 pages
Published December 1st 2019 by Thomas & Mercer
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Erin Written by someone who clearly knows absolutely nothing about trauma, trauma bonding or anything else related to systemic, horrific abuse. There's a r…moreWritten by someone who clearly knows absolutely nothing about trauma, trauma bonding or anything else related to systemic, horrific abuse. There's a reason you don't understand. I'd focus on being grateful for that lack of understanding, instead of criticizing something that's outside your scope of comprehension. Let me guess? You also think it's super duper easy for victims of domestic violence to just get up and leave too, right? (less)
Sharyn Gilmore In some regards yes, but, I also think the author is trying to show the inner workings of the psyche. The things your brain and conscience will justif…moreIn some regards yes, but, I also think the author is trying to show the inner workings of the psyche. The things your brain and conscience will justify to avoid the true horror of the situation. Shelley is a monster...sociopath...that family was in a cult, and their leader was calculatingly EVIL!
I'm not quite done, but am incredibly aggravated that Nikki and Sammy told Tori to hang on just a little longer... those poor people all just wanted to please Shelley so I get why it was so hard to get out of it...
I can't even imagine! (less)

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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  165,821 ratings  ·  14,176 reviews

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Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
2.5 Stars
Just to be clear I am not judging or rating this book on the horrific happenings or the cruelty that took place within this family and I cannot imagine what it would be like to grow up in a home with fear and violence part of every day life or with parents like the Knoteks. My rating reflects how the book came across to me as a reader who had never heard of this family or what took place within the household. We all react differently to books and this is just my reaction

This book ca
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
This was a disturbing book. Sometimes things that really have happened are far worse than anything one can dream up in their mind. This is a tale of abuse, manipulation, and complete and utter disregard for human suffering. Where one woman got off on the emotional and physical pain she could inflict on others - mainly her children and those closest to her. How she got away with this for so long is a mystery.

“I loved my mother because I didn’t know I had a choice. I had to love her.”

What hap
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
A tragic story, but...

I found it difficult to engage with the story. I understand that the author has had to cobble together, many different points of view and try to create a coherent timeline for the story, but if found it clunky and sadly lacking in depth.

Don't get me wrong, this is a truly tragic and mind boggling account of terrible acts and my heart goes out to the victims. The strength and bond the sisters have retained is incredible. On the other hand, the terrible complicity and acts of
Dan McDonald
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
Dark, Disturbing, Drawn Out, and Ultimately Dissatisfying

If you're going to write a book about a mentally ill, sadistic serial killer you should probably spend more time talking about her mental illness or at least trying to explain the "why" instead of just the "what." I never felt like I understood the motivations or motivating force behind any of the people in this tragedy. Was Shelly suffering from borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, both? What would the exper
Nov 03, 2019 rated it did not like it
Poorly written. Poorly interpreted.

Yuck. Just yuck. The subject matter...the written word. I wanted to find out “what happened”. But it was a REAL struggle to read. So many ways this story could have been shortened. So much superfluous text. Just yuck.
It took me no time at all to read this. Why? Well you hear about crimes and crazy things ppl do or split minute decisions made in haste, but I have never heard of someone like the mother in this story. She had a switch. She seemed to have a hair trigger. The book even remarked on that. It also well documents and shows you exactly what this means. Happy to horribly mean, calm to hellaciously evil and vengeful.

I’m not sure she had all of her humanity included when she was born? Or maybe in her fo
Grace Anderson
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
I’m pretty horrified that Shelly was allowed to get away with so much. Horrified.
Aug 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was an intense book about mental, physical abuse and murder. A mother and wife who was a psychopathic, narcissistic, abusive, manipulating, murder. She tortured her children, manipulated everyone and should have been on death row, for what she did. It was sometimes hard to listen, awkward hearing what she would do her children and people who came to live with them. It was an excellent book, that brings to light, how crazy some people are. How lucky I am to have the family I do. I don’t know ...more
Joey R.
Mar 18, 2021 rated it liked it
3.5 stars— I have always enjoyed Greg Olsen’s true crime books. Olsen is one of the most thorough researchers there is, and this book is no exception. However, the story of Shelly Knotek is not an easy one to read. Ms. Knotek qualifies as one of the most evil persons ever to live. Her lack of compassion and sadistic behavior over her entire life is like nothing I have ever seen before. Since Knotek’s three daughters as well as statements given by Knotek’s husband are the sources of information f ...more
Misty Marie Harms
Wow this book blew me away. I wanted to jump in the book and rescue Nikki, Sami, and Tori Knotek. There was times I had tears in my eyes. I felt their pain so deeply. I don't know how they survived with their sanity. Shelly Knotek and her husband are human garbage. The things they did to those children are horrifying. Then they tortured and killed 2 innocent people under the guise of friendship. I was so proud of Nikki for finally standing up and going to the police. I wish the sisters all the b ...more
Lauren Morse
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
Wow this was....terrible. I mean, the story is obviously terrible, and would be no matter what, but couple that with the awful writing, lack of editing, repetitive phrasing, and cutesy metaphors and puns - and you get this dumpster fire.
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
Q: The best calls came at three in the morning. (c)

Q: Even on the crazy train, there is a place where the world is shut out and things go on feeling as though they are normal or even worth fighting for. (c) The world's most fucked up train with Shelly Knotek as the lead conductor.

This is I dunno what. If at least some of this is true then this is a bonkers batshit story. And it does seem to be credible.

I have no idea how that gal managed to get off with this much military grade crap. What the he
Margaret M - semi hiatus  (With lots of catching up to do)
What makes this book all the more disturbing is that is it based on a true story. A very troubling story of a mothers treatment of her own children.

This true crime novel is relentless in its story telling of torture, violent episodes, extreme abuse, death, broken relationships and family tragedy. However, it DID happen in one family. To the children and a family friend.

Unfortunately I struggled to see the purpose of this book because so many questions went unanswered like why? And what happened
Ileana Renfroe
Nov 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Why? How? How could she have done all those things?

From the moment I started reading this book I was hooked. I kept asking, why did the police not react sooner? They are to blame for Ron’s death, no question. But most importantly, How terrible these girls had to endure all those years of torture. However, there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel, and in this story it tells of three sisters who found the courage to finally tell the truth. Three strong women who are survivors. Thank you to
Jade Violet
I'm going to need a minute on this one. Feel like I have to go take a shower first and bleach my mind before I say anything... Oh, that was a bad choice of words considering. ...more
Valerity (Val)
This is a crazy good book by Gregg Olsen about a really dysfunctional family that becomes painful at times to read. The more you read, the more you see it going off in the ditch. You can’t help but watch the train wreck though. The main twistee, Shelly, is a real piece of work. She loves to inflict maximum punishment and humiliation on her victims, who are her own three children, along with a young male nephew she’s taken in, along with her former hairdresser Kathy, who moved in to help out at a ...more
Debbie "Buried in Her TBR Pile"
3 stars

(view spoiler)
Margaret Jones
Nov 04, 2019 rated it did not like it
Talk about dysfunctional families!

Unbelievably sadistic, psychopathic mother. Weak, submissive husband. Three abused daughters. Three tortured, murdered "boarders". Another true crime horror story by Gregg Olsen. He's not the best writer. Repetitive and illogical reiteration of a cult-like group of inadequate, two dimensional characters who never come alive on the page. Disappointing.
Johann (jobis89)
Horrifying case, but poorly written and lacking... something!! Full review to come.
Cheryl James
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is a 5 star book of craziness and sadness. I could not believe that this mother, wife, aunt, and friend was able to manipulate, torture, harass and kill people in this day and time. I pray that this story goes viral. Children and Adults need to know that there is help to get them out of a horrible situation. People like this mother and father should rot in jail with no chance of getting out. How do they sleep at night? Kudos to the 3 sisters for standing up and disclosing the truth about th ...more
Deborah Rogers
Apr 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
If You Tell is quite a story...It's not that often that you get an inside view into the world of a female psychopath and, god, what a disturbing journey that is. I can't wrap my head around the fact that Shelly, the central perpetrator and aforementioned psychopath, was a mother of three children. She was a truly wicked woman...If You Tell is a detailed account of what went on behind closed doors and a must read for all true crime fans. ...more
If You Tell by Gregg Olsen is a non-fiction/true crime book and I must warn readers this book is not for everyone. For many painstaking years sisters Nikki, Sami and Tori were tortured by their cruel and sadistic mother Shelly Knotek. The abuse these girls suffered was horrendous and has you questioning how could any parent do the things she did for so long and get away with it.

Eventually, Nikki, Sami and Tori’s torture came to an end when their mother had to pay the price for what she’d done t
Nancy Hudson
2.5 stars. Horrific story that went under the radar due to the nature of the crimes and the way Shelley Knotek and her husband were convicted and sentenced . The story is unbelievable at times but I think this is largely due to the way Olsen writes. He doesn’t have a solid timeline, gets bogged down in repetitive details that don’t add to the story and doesn’t really add the depth needed for a good TC book. I read one of his years ago and it was the same. He hasn’t written TC in some time so I t ...more
Pamela Mckinnon
Dec 03, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Such juvenile writing, I'm stunned. I seriously wish I hadn't started (free 'First Read' Amazon offering), or finished it, but I have this OCD thing about finishing books. Yes, it's a shocking story, evil woman, evil man, incompetent police, yada, yada, yada. Poorly written. Repetitive, excuse making, etc. Seriously cannot recommend, and I will not read any other books written by Mr. Olsen. I'm thinking I may be able to make a living as a 'writer' if this is the bar. ...more
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
As if I don't have enough books on my lists, I opted for a trial Kindle Unlimited membership so that I could read some short novels my brother has written. I was surprised and slightly delighted to learn that it's not necessary to own a Kindle and that I'm able to read them on my laptop. What are the chances I'll cancel my subscription when the 30 days are up?! Anyway, other than my brother's books, this was the first book I chose to read in this fashion. For some reason the local library doesn' ...more
This is truly a shocking and disturbing crime. I thought Olsen did a good job of covering the abuse and murders but at the end there was still so much I would have liked to have known. At one point in the book, the police were accused of not doing anything with information that was given to them. I was kind of interested in finding out their point of view. Was there procedures that they had to follow that didn't allow them to do something at that moment? Was there not enough evidence to allow th ...more
May 24, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
This is the first time i’ve ever given a book 1 star. I usually say you shouldn’t rate a book you haven’t finished but after 275 pages of this book i’ll give it one star. This is a true story of abuse that shelly knotek inflicted on her children and those around her. While i feel and hurt so badly for the three children, nikki, sammi, and tori, their cousin shane, and the people who lost their lives, especially kathy because she endured so much abuse to try to protect the children from their abu ...more
Lynda Kelly
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The best book Gregg Olsen has ever written. It's the fifth I've read by him and I've usually been pretty disappointed as his proofreaders or editors have done an atrocious job, but this one is WAY better presented altogether. I see it's been a few years since he wrote a true crime book so the break's done him the world of good as this one is fascinating. I did dither a little over selecting it as my Kindle First choice for the month, but I'm pleased I gave him this "last chance" !!
It's not a ca
Apr 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ok I'm giving If You Tell by Gregg Olsen 5🌟 not for the story but for the 3 very strong and brave sisters who survived their horrendous piece of SHIT mother I'm sorry for saying that but that women is just terrible (so no I'm not really 😏)
How can anyone from such a young age do the things she did still get married 3 times have 3 children have most people think she is some kind of normal human being, not everyone but most and have so much power and control over people for them to feel the need it
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Throughout his career, Gregg Olsen has demonstrated an ability to create a detailed narrative that offers readers fascinating insights into the lives of people caught in extraordinary circumstances.

A #1 New York Times bestselling author, Olsen has written ten nonfiction books, ten novels, and contributed a short story to a collection edited by Lee Child.

The award-winning author has been a guest on

Articles featuring this book

The true-crime genre is experiencing a huge boom, and it comes as no surprise—podcasts, documentaries, and TV shows have us all addicted to...
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“no one can help a troubled person who doesn’t think they need it.” 7 likes
“I loved my mother because I didn’t know I had a choice. I had to love her.” 5 likes
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