This week’s Saturday Book Club review is written about a book I read last year that was good but not great. I’m certainly in no hurry to pick it up again, but it wasn’t so awful that I had the “Kill it with fire!” thought that sometimes runs through my mind when I’m reading something really shitty.
As I’ve mentioned before, I have rated all of the books I’ve previously reviewed (and will be rating any books I review in the future) based on the Netflix rating system. For those unfamiliar with this system:
One star = Hated it
Two stars = Didn’t like it
Three stars = Liked it
Four stars = Really liked it
Five stars = Loved it
Image courtesy of http://www.jennifer-mcmahon.com.
Promise Not to Tell by Jennifer McMahon
This is another book I found randomly on Amazon by clicking through the “Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed” section. This wasn’t nearly as great as the previously reviewed A Friend of the Family, but overall it was an enjoyable book. It was an easy read that (mostly) kept me entertained.
The story focuses on Kate Cypher, a 41-year-old woman who has just returned to her hometown (a small town in Vermont) to care for her ailing mother. The chapters generally alternate between her past and her present, with a special focus on the friendship she had with Del, nicknamed “Potato Girl” by their classmates because she was poor and her family sold potatoes (among other things) on their farm. Del was murdered when they were just children, and her killer was never captured. When Kate arrives in Vermont, another murder takes place … Another young girl is killed in the same manner as Del, forcing Kate to look into her past.
The book is a mix of murder mystery, ghost story, and coming-of-age tale. I really enjoyed the murder mystery and coming-of-age aspects, but the ghost thing was a little hokey. I don’t mind stories with ghosts in them … I just think Promise Not to Tell was written to be more realistic and serious and then the author just decided to throw in some ghost stuff for the hell of it.
I was on the edge of my seat for much of the novel (I actually read this book in only two days!) … Then it kind of fell apart toward the end. I figured out who the killer was well before it was revealed (a big no-no in my opinion). That might not have been so terrible if Jennifer McMahon hadn’t allowed her killer to explain the reasons for the murders to another character. (I’m trying to keep this somewhat vague in case anyone decides to read this book.) I hate when this happens in books, movies, and TV shows! While I like to understand what’s going on and the motivations behind characters’ actions, I think there are better ways to get this across to readers/viewers than to have that character explicitly spell it out for you … This basically says, “I think my readers/viewers are too stupid to put the pieces together.” It could also say, “I did a shit job of putting the clues out there and I can’t tie it together, so I’ll just have this character explain it in great detail so I can hopefully hide glaring plot holes and cover my ass.” Either way, that’s not a good thing.
My final complaint about this book is that the ending was lame … Like really really lame. As I said earlier, I couldn’t put the book down for the most part … With all that built up tension, I was expecting a great ending. Between the issues mentioned in the previous paragraph and a, dare I say, boring ending, I was very disappointed when I finished the last page.
I don’t mean to say I hated this book. I actually liked it for the most part. The ending just kind of killed it for me. I probably would’ve given it four stars if Jennifer McMahon hadn’t rushed through the ending. I felt as though she was probably getting shit from her publisher and just had to slap something together at the last minute to finish it up. I’m sure that wasn’t the case, but that’s how it read.
Do I think Amazon let me down this time? No, not really. The majority of the book was well-executed and riveting. I won’t fault the author too much for a bad ending … It happens to even the best authors (or so I’ve noticed in the past with certain books). Not only that, but this was her debut novel. For a first novel, I think it was pretty damn good. I actually purchased a second book by Jennifer McMahon (also read last year), and I’ll post a review of that later so you can see how they compare.
I can’t say that I would necessarily recommend this book to others since the ending was such a letdown … But I also wouldn’t tell others to stay away from it. It’s nice if you’re looking for an easy read, and I kept wanting to read more (until the end, anyway). Will I reread it? To be honest, I’m not sure. I guess time will tell.
My rating for Promise Not to Tell is THREE STARS.