I came across this one strolling through the shelves at Borders. Once I pulled it off the shelf, the cover attracted me more than anything. I knew I was going to buy the book just based off the cover. Perhaps not the best way to choose a book, but I felt those eyes had a story to tell. The eyes of Del Griswold do play a major part in "Promise Not to Tell" by Jennifer McMahon.
The story opens in New Canaan, Vermont in 2002 with four friends -- Opal, Tori, Sam and Ryan -- trying to scare each other with tales of the 'Potato Girl' a.k.a Del Griswold, who was murdered 30 years ago. Now, Tori is also murdered in the exact same way. Opal and her friend Kate Cypher, who returns to town to care for her mother, work to unravel the mystery. Opal is so torn, she starts to think the Potato Girl is trying to contact her from the grave.
Kate grew up with Del, but always tried to deny their friendship to the cool girls at school. Del was the school outcast. She smelled like rotten potatoes, hence the nickname 'Potato Girl,' wore dirty clothes and marched to the beat of her own drummer. Kate truly saw Del as a friend, and for 30 years has blamed herself for her death. She has a chance at redemption when Kate believes Del is trying to connect with her from the grave via her memory-challenged mother, Jean. Clues to the mystery start popping up, including the images in a painting by Kate's mother. One of the key elements of the painting are the eyes. Eyes that immediately jump out amongst a sea of color. When Del's face starts to form in the painting, Kate starts to doubt her own sanity.
The novel also shifts back and forth between 1971 and 2002, for me that made some of the details a little hard to follow. Occasionally, I had to double-back and make sure I didn't overlook a detail. The story is a cross between mystery/ghost story. But by the ending it's more about Kate's fight for redemption. When approaching the last 50 pages, I found myself reading rapidly. I wanted to solve the mystery. I'm a skeptic when it comes to paranormal activity. When looking at the cover, it doesn't come off as a sci-fi or horror novel, so I had to believe the murders were the work of a person of flesh and blood. The clues point to several characters, whom McMahon takes to the time to invest in. When the killer is revealed, the ending feels a little rushed. If you're looking for a quick read, gives this one a try but borrow it from the library or a friend!