I’ve read two other books by Jennifer McMahon — The Night Sister and The Winter People. Promise Not to Tell did not quite match up to the excellent creepiness of those two later novels, but as a debut, it was still pretty good.
“The dead can blame.”
Now in her 40s, Kate Cypher (really? Cypher?) has returned to the small town/hippie commune where she grew up to deal with her mother, who suffers greatly from Alzheimer’s and recently burnt down the teepee (hippies) where she had been living. When Kate was a kid, her friend Del, a.k.a. The Potato Girl, was brutally murdered. People still say that Del haunts the woods around the town. Right when Kate returns home, another young girl’s body is found dead in the woods. Kate finds herself under suspicion, and also dredging up long lost memories of her friendship with Del.
McMahon gets a lot of use out of “creepy old lady with dementia seems to knooooww something”, but the rest of the book is a pretty straightforward murder mystery, with some fucked up small town secrets and family problems thrown in. Between this and The Scamp, I think I’ve had my fill of books that casually mention incest for a while. Still, it’s not a bad read, although I would recommend one of her later books (read The Winter People!) to a first-time Jennifer McMahon reader.