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

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  5,615 ratings  ·  517 reviews

#1 New York Times bestselling author Gregg Olsen’s shocking and empowering true-crime story of three sisters determined to survive their mother’s house of horrors.

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,

Kindle Edition, First Edition, 410 pages
Published December 1st 2019 by Thomas & Mercer (first published November 1st 2019)
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Average rating 4.07  · 
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 ·  5,615 ratings  ·  517 reviews

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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.
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
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
Debbie "Buried in Her TBR Pile"
3 stars

I had a hard time understanding why the older girl did not go to the police sooner after the deaths of 3 people. She was 20 and still living with the mother and tolerating the abuse after 2 people were killed. Her "brother" disappears and she suspects her parents killed him and did not report? The other part that bothered me is that the 2 elder girls were trying to decide if the younger child could take the environment for a couple of years until graduation knowing what was happening. It
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
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.
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.
Kathy Barrows
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a very hard book for me to read. Incredibly well written...Gregg Olsen gave these girls their voice back. Completely horrific account of the worst child abuse and elder abuse that Ive ever read about. Knowing it was all a true account made this even c worse. You will find yourself crying at certain points of the book. At night I'd lay awake and rethink the parts that I read. This book will draw you in to gre point you feel like you are right there. This is definitely one book a true ...more
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
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 ...more
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dee Cherry
Nov 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
1st read by this author. Shelly's manipulation and control she had over the people in her life was inconceivable. Her abuse and heinous crimes committed had me taking breaks from reading as the disturbing acts were explained. I found the sheriff's reaction interesting when learning of the crimes, and thought it was good the sisters finally were on 1 accord. This was an eye-opening read
Nov 06, 2019 rated it did not like it
Couldn't get into it.
KD Jones
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Once you stayreading this book you won't be able to put it down!! Just an amazing story!!
Lee Husemann
Nov 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had never heard this story of Michelle "Shelly" Knotek who seemed to love to torture people including her children resulting in the death of Nikki, Sam and Tori as well as two other victims who were boarders. This was a very sad and often difficult to read story and it makes you wonder how evil and wicked a person can be especially someone who is called "mother." This was a very well researched and well written book by Author Gregg Olsen who has been a favorite author of mine for years. I ...more
Nov 17, 2019 rated it liked it
I find most true crime books to be a little too dry and boring since they tend to get bogged down in irrelevant minutiae (like the entire history of the town where the crime took place). This one did not have that problem and was a quick and interesting (if horrifying) read. I liked the way the story was laid out and it's clear the author did a lot of research. However, I found the writing to be a bit juvenile. Which surprised me because this guy has written a ton of books. I was also left with ...more
Cindy Gelpi
Nov 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A horrendous and shocking story of a master manipulator and sadist mother who drags her family through one of the most horrible ordeals imaginable. But no, that’s not quite accurate, it’s not really imaginable. Only a demented and psychotic mind could come up with the tortures this woman inflicts on her children, family and friends. It’s a difficult read, but hopeful at the same time as her daughters are able to survive the abuse and go on to become successful adults.
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.
Christina Renfro
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kathy A Boyd
Nov 04, 2019 rated it liked it

The horrors described in this book are very disturbing. I can't imagine how a mother could treat her own children this way. If graphic violence or vulgar language bothers you this isn't the book for you.
This book is supposed to be a true story but I found several elements unbelievable. Without giving way too much information: how could someone riding in the trunk of a car not be noticed when getting in and out in public; I can't see how the girls could have been beaten as described
Jennie Louwes
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A house of horrors. Nothing supernatural. No, this is all too real.

You want to look away; but, you're compelled to see. To read about what comes next. To know the truth of evil incarnate.

Evil isn't supernatural persay. It's the choices we make to be that way. Give the devil a foothold and he'll take your soul.

Science has shone that serial killers have different brains than the rest of society. We can say they're born with a prolicivity and propensity towards violent and deviant behavior.
Lesa Tobiason beach
Nov 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Oh boy

Gregg Olsen is one of the best true crime writers . I've been a fan since "Starvation Heights" came out years ago. This story, starring Michelle " Shelly" Knotek, and her clueless 3rd husband shows how they got away with torture and murder for years. Shelly's kids had no idea how evil she really was. She degraded them, broke them down, so they had no idea what was normal, or what she was truly capable of. With his mindless accept ance, compliance, and avoidance, David Knotek made her job
Susanna White
Nov 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I briefly remember reading bits and pieces about this story when it was in the media. Tet, I did not know all of the details. My heart just broke for Nikki, Sami, and Tori as I read about their childhood growing up under their mother's reign.

Shelley was an evil woman. She was mental, physically, and verbally abusive to all who were around her; not just her daughters but husband, nephew, and the others that she took in promising their a good life only to turn on them and treat them worse than an
Nov 23, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a horrific story. It was hard reading of the abuse of the four children. I’m glad that the three sisters have survived this nightmare.

It is AWFUL that the father is already out of prison for his crimes. And Shelly will be out in approximately 2 years? This isn’t justice at all! I cannot understand what the state of Washington was thinking when it handed down these sentences. These 2 killed 4 people. So they get roughly 5 years per life? Wow! If I ever want to kill someone, I’m heading
Nov 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book made me so angry. I totally get that predators know who they can make their victims, and children pretty much never stand a chance. But I will never understand how adults can let themselves be taken advantage of so badly. People in abusive relationships, people who join cults, people who get swindled by con artist guru types, and people who commit heinous crimes for others.
Spoiler alert. This bitch gets out in a couple years and I don’t get how that is acceptable. Except that it was
Nov 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a little hard to read and I'm a true crime addict. I feel like the story could have been shortened a bit, it was pretty repetitive. I know he was trying to tell the story truthfully and probably didnt want to leave much out but once you read the book, I feel like you will understand what I'm trying to stay. It was a horrifying, sad, and an enraging novel about a psychotic mother who had no right having children, friends, or a husband in her life. How she got grown adults to follow ...more
Traci Wilmoth
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I feel a need to put a disclaimer for this book. Though I could not put the book down, and found the writing to be most excellent, the reader should definitely be where. This is a true crime story about long-term physical and mental abuse of children and the victims of the perpetrator. If that is the type of book you enjoy, you will love this book. Though the actions of the main character are deplorable, I still found the story fascinating and devoured the book in an evening in the morning with ...more
Brianna White
Nov 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was very captivated by the subject and when I started reading this book, I didn't want to put it down. There were many moments throughout the book that left me with my jaw dropped and shocked by the horrors that these poor people went through. Shelly Knoteck is truly a monster and has definitely done some heinous and unbelievable things to her friends and her own blood children. It is unimaginable how much these innocent children went through and how much hard work they've had to do to try and ...more
Dawn Dugan
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is a horrific true crime book and while the story is heartbreaking, it is drawn out and repetitive. You can get the same story by reading a 2 page news story about this crime. The characters are all one dimensional - the mother ( Shelly) must have had something happen in her early life - but we begin her story when she is sent to live with her father without a detailed account of her life before. It would benefit the book to learn more about why Shelly did what she did from a psychological ...more
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Obsessed with Tru...: "If You Tell" -- new TC by Gregg Olsen 10 28 10 hours, 5 min ago  
Obsessed with Tru...: If You Tell 5 42 May 19, 2019 01:31PM  
Gregg Olsen is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than 30 books, both fiction and nonfiction. Known for his vivid and thrilling narratives, he lives in rural Washington State. Visit him at

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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
“I loved my mother because I didn’t know I had a choice. I had to love her.” 2 likes
“no one can help a troubled person who doesn’t think they need it.” 2 likes
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