Promise Not to Tell

Promise Not to Tell
by Jennifer McMahon

This is the story of a woman who returns to the town she grew up to take care of her mother who has developed severe Alzheimer's disease. A murder takes place that is seemingly identical to a murder that happened thirty years before, when the narrator was just a child. The previous victim was an unlikely friend whom the narrator had betrayed just before her untimely death. The guilt the narrator feels is so intense that she wonders if the ghost of her old friend has returned to stalk the night and punish her or if the resemblance to the old murder is nothing more than a manifestation of her personal guilt.

From moment one, I was concerned about this book. I kept explaining that the story teetered on the edge of being a good read or a complete cliche, overwritten and under-thought mess. Unfortunately, the latter turned out to be correct.

For one, the entire book is from Kate, the narrator's perspective. Suddenly, without reason, in the last chapter the perspective shifts to no one; an unrelated narrator who has the exact same voice and style as Kate but without the necessary "I".

Another major problem is that illogical voices and logic are granted to characters, particularly children, who possess uncharacteristic psychological and symbolic insight that, it seems, McMahon could not figure out how to work in otherwise.

And then there is the repeated issue of cliches in this novel. It often reminded me of a poorly-written straight to DVD horror movie with the expected thriller/mentally ill traits granted to the same overused stereotypes. Whatever you think will happen WILL happen because there is no more creativity than any other "haunting thriller" you pick up from a dime book store. The worst of these was the the final moment when the murderer is revealed. This character launches into the most ridiculous, tired, uncharacteristic speech about motive... it is completely unbelievable- to the point where I wondered if McMahon was joking.

While relatively easy to read, despite some major plot/writing issues. But if you are considering reading this and making up your own mind (which I always recommend because literature is so completely subjective) be prepared to roll your eyes at the end, drop the book in defeat, and exclaim "you've got the be kidding me."

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