Publication Date: 2014
Format: Paperback, 255 pgs
Kate Cypher and Del Griswold are two misfits in school. The former is more of a hippie girl who lives in a tepee while the latter, whose father owns a run-down farm, gets shunned by her schoolmates. As if that isn't enough, they also named her "Potato Girl". Kate doesn't want to be friends with Del initially, but Del intrigues her and on top of that, Del is the one who talked to her first. Although they aren't close on surface, Del has shared some of her secrets with Kate. As much as Kate doesn't want to be seen with her, she sees this as a way of trading secrets with the other popular girls in school so she could fit into their social circles. That is, until Del got murdered in the woods. They couldn't find the killer, and the mystery remains unsolved and some secrets are left buried. However, the stories of the Potato Girl travel among the small town, and she'd somewhat became their 'urban legend'; ghost stories to be told over and over.
Thirty years later, Kate returns to New Canaan, Vermont, to find that another murder is committed; the victim's death quite similarly to Del's. Ten-year-old Opal is sure something sinister is going on surrounding her best friend's death. After all, Tori Miller died wearing her jacket when she wandered deep into the woods. There are stories of the Potato Girl coming back from the dead to haunt those who had teased or bullied her. What if Tori's death is a result of mistaken identity? Is the murderer a human being or is Del's ghost seeking revenge after all these years?
Told between flashbacks in 1971 and what happens currently in 2002, Promise Not to Tell is an absorbing thriller about friendship, secrets, betrayal and of course, murder. Aside from the premise and the characterisations, what made this story such a compelling read is the paranormal element in it, which I felt made the overall setting to be creepy and atmospheric. And then there is Kate's mother, who has Alzheimer, certainly leads readers in doubt of the things she remembered or said. Speculations or truth? Human or specter? These are the things that had me wonder all the time while reading this book right up to the climatic moments towards the ending. A very promising debut I'd say by Ms. McMahon. I'd definitely check out her other releases.