I killed someone tonight are the words on the cover of this novel, the second I've read of Jennifer McMahon's tales of suspense and mystery. As with (almost) all of her novels, the covers are as much of a beckon to read as are the hooking phrases. Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants, also quotes on the cover that the book is "deeply disturbing and darkly compelling". I would agree...mostly. I didn't feel that I would be looking around each corner for the Potato Girl, but she did leave an impression on me.
Last summer, I read McMahon's fifth novel, Don't Breathe a Word and found it to be much more refined and crafted than Promise Not to Tell. By the end of Promise..., I found myself a tad disappointed: like I was at the end of a Murder, She Wrote episode with canned phrases and unrealistic behaviors contrary to the rest of the novel where I often felt empathy, anticipation, and anxiety for the characters and their experiences. McMahon weaves snippets of issues like bullying, incest, sexual abuse, homosexual experimentation, divorce, sub-culture, and Alzheimer's all in one story. None are the main theme, but all come together for one dark story.
Like with Don't Breathe a Word, I read this novel faster than I have most others and for longer stints of time. I look forward to the books of hers between these two and her newest creation. I am not fond of formulaic novels, and can see threads of the same themes and characters as I read summaries and previews of her other work. I hope they are going to be different enough or differently penned so I will not lose interest--because there is nothing like reading about a person with a flashlight sneaking down a path following steps she knows not to whom they belong and having something creeping outside my window at 1:00 a.m....
Promise Not to Tell