Monday, April 23, 2012

"Promise Not To Tell," by Jennifer McMahon (Book Thoughts)

"Book Thoughts" should have posted last Monday. Unfortunately, my brain was in a fog. "Spreading The News," which was scheduled for today, will post on Wednesday.

Interweaving past and present, Promise Not To Tell is a story of friendship, secrets, murder, and redemption. At its center is Kate Cypher, a reserved 41-year-old school nurse who returns to the small town of New Canaan, VT, to care for her Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother. The night she arrives, a young girl is murdered. Slowly Kate is drawn into the investigation—and deep into the childhood she’s tried to escape—for the killing eerily echoes the death of another young girl: her childhood friend, Del. Poor, misunderstood, Del suffered the taunts of classmates who shunned her and called her “Potato Girl.” But in Del, 10-year-old Kate found a kindred spirit, until a painful falling out shattered their relationship shortly before Del’s death.

"Promise Not to Tell" is Jennifer McMahon's debut novel. I recently talked about her second novel, "Island of Lost Girls." What can I say? I never do things in order. Anyway, "Promise Not To Tell" is a suspenseful murder mystery/ghost story which alternates between the 1970s and 2002.

The story took unexpected twists and turns and gave my heart quite a workout, but I also found myself in tears at times. This novel is quite unforgettable.

Kate and her mother live in a teepee on a hippie commune in Vermont. Del Griswold, who lives on a neighboring potato farm, dubs Kate her 'deputy' and the mysterious girl becomes her friend.

Kate just wants to fit in at school, but hides the truth about her friendship with Del because of rumors of the potato girl who rides naked on her pony and other assorted tales. She isn't cool enough to be friends with the popular girls, but she makes them believe she knows all about Del and can reveal the outcast's secrets. At the same time, Kate tells Del the secrets she learns about the popular girls.

Del is shunned and tormented by the class, and is brutally murdered. Kate lives with the shame of betraying Del, but still thirty years later, denies they were ever friends.

When Kate returns to Vermont to care for her ailing mother, another young girl is murdered and Kate's past and present collide in unexpected ways. Del does not rest in peace.

"One potato, two potato, three potato, four--she's coming after you now, better lock your door."


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