Review: Promise Not To Tell by Jennifer McMahon

April 19, 2011 Crime Fiction, Harper Perennial, Mystery/Suspense, Paranormal Fiction, Review 16

  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (April 10, 2007)
  • ISBN-10: 9780061143311
  • Source: Publisher


“One potato, two potato, three potato four

She used to live here long ago

She doesn’t anymore”

Forty-one year old Kate has returned to her small Vermont hometown to tend to her mother, suffering from Alzheimer’s. The very night she arrives, a young girl is horrifically killed in a manner similar to one that took place three decades earlier.

Del Griswold was a poor, skinny girl referred by her classmates as “Potato Girl” due the crops her family sold.

“There isn’t a soul in town who hasn’t heard of the Potato Girl, though.  She is, by all accounts, the most famous resident of New Canaan–which is funny because, back when she was alive, she was just a skinny kid with scabby knees who, you could tell just by looking, would never amount to much.

How wrong we all were.”

Del was brutally killed the last day of fifth grade.  Her murderer was never found.  Kate was Del’s friend, but never admitted as such to her classmates.  In the last hours of her life, Del was shunned by those close to her.  Now an urban myth claims that she isn’t really gone, she comes back to seek revenge on those who were cruel to her so long ago.

“It’s like a potato: you cut it up into pieces, bury any of those pieces-even  a little bit of peel if it has eyes-and another plant grows.”



Kate’s past begins to rear it’s ugly head & make itself known in the present. The police begin to question her relationship with Del in an attempt to understand the most recent crime.  The uncanny similarities lead them to believe that Kate is somehow responsible; it was only after her return that things started going very wrong.

As she tries to deal with her dementia-ridden mother, Kate begins to wonder just how much her mother really knows about what happened all those years ago.  When secrets kept hidden are forced to be revealed, it is apparent that Del’s murder is related to the most recent crime. Can Kate & those from her past put an end to the strange happenings in this small, quiet, Vermont town? Can the Potato Girl finally rest in peace? A phrase Kate heard from a patient years ago comes back: The dead can blame.

Promise Not to Tell was McMahon’s debut novel back in 2007. What a debut it was!  She skillfully weaves a story of family secrets & betrayal into an astounding piece of fiction. Not just a murder mystery, the characters in the novel are forced to face secrets long kept hidden. 

It would be an understatement to say I loved this book.  I first discovered McMahon’s books when I read Dismantled nearly a year ago.  She’s quite skilled at capturing the reader, pulling him/her into the book.  Promise Not to Tell gains your attention before you even turn a page; McMahon’s book covers, terrifying and stark, send chills down your spine.  The chills continue as you turn the pages.  As a fan of the supernatural, I find myself desensitized to scenes intended to shock or scare the reader. However, while reading this book, I found myself shuddering in fear, the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck raising. I don’t proclaim this to frighten you, but to encourage you to read this book. You won’t forget it. Highly recommended.

Thank you to TLC tours for providing me the opportuntiy to review this book. All of McMahon’s backlist books are being featured in this tour.  Check out the other participants below:

Tuesday, April 19th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom (Island of Lost Girls)

Wednesday, April 20th: Life In Review (Promise Not to Tell)

Tuesday, May 3rd: Book Journey (Promise Not to Tell)

Wednesday, May 4th: Rundpinne (Promise Not to Tell)

Friday, May 6th: In the Next Room (Promise Not to Tell)

Monday, May 9th: Reading Through Life (Promise Not to Tell)

Tuesday, May 10th: Tina’s Book Reviews (Promise Not to Tell)

Wednesday, May 11th: In the Next Room (Island of Lost Girls)

Thursday, May 12th: Book Journey (Island of Lost Girls)

Monday, May 16th: Sara’s Organized Chaos (Island of Lost Girls)

Monday, May 16th: Stephanie’s Written Word (Promise Not to Tell)

Wednesday, May 18th: Rundpinne (Island of Lost Girls)

Thursday, May 19th: Iwriteinbooks’s blog (Promise Not to Tell)

Friday, May 20th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books (Island of Lost Girls)

Monday, May 23rd: Stephanie’s Written Word (Island of Lost Girls)

Be sure to check out the author

16 Responses to “Review: Promise Not To Tell by Jennifer McMahon”

  1. Jen Forbus
    Twitter: jenforbus

    Wow. This sounds like a good one, Jenn. Your summary made me think of a couple other books with similar plots, though maybe not so much on the “scary” side.

    I may have to look into this one. Thanks.

    • Jenn
      Twitter: jennbookshelves

      It’s pretty fantastic. There’s a scene that, despite the tone of the book, had me laughing because it reminded me of a scene from Can’t Buy Me Love.

  2. Kay

    How can I resist a book that raised the hair on the back your neck? Oooh, I love books like that. I want to say that I may already have a copy of this, but it would be packed away. I’ll check at the library today. Thanks for sharing, Jenn!

  3. Pam

    Oh, I’m about to start this! I LOVED Dismantled and can’t wait to read this. Hooray!

  4. Stephanie
    Twitter: SWrittenWord

    I too really enjoyed this book (but my review won’t be up until May) and I am looking forward to reading two more (including her newest Don’t Breathe a Word) for TLC book tours!!

    • Jenn
      Twitter: jennbookshelves

      Exactly! Creepy and addictive! As much as you might want to cover your eyes or close the book, your need to find out what happens trumps all other efforts.

  5. Amy
    Twitter: JustBookReading

    I felt much the same about her new book, Don’t Breathe a Word. She has a way of pulling you into a disturbed story and even though you want to stop reading, you can’t.

  6. Heather
    Twitter: BookAddictHeath

    I listened to this on audio not too long ago and definitely agree that it has some serious creep factor! I need to read more of her books.

    • Jenn
      Twitter: jennbookshelves

      Heather-Oh I can’t even begin to imagine how creepy the audio version must be!

  7. Becky
    Twitter: BeckyLeJeune

    I do love her books! I can’t wait until the new one comes out this year.

  1. Promise Not to Tell | Stephanie's Written Word

    […] April 18th: Sara’s Organized Chaos Tuesday, April 19th: Jenn’s Bookshelves Wednesday, April 20th: Life In Review Tuesday, May 3rd: Book Journey Wednesday, May 4th: Rundpinne […]