Promise Not to Tell by Jayne Ann Krentz

Reviewed by Ian Lipke

This gripping story begins with a woman, who paints nightmarish visions, running in terror. She believes her pursuer to be the man who led a cult that almost destroyed her when she was a child. Rather than let him get his hands on her she throws herself from a cliff into the sea. However, her secrets have not all disappeared with her.

The cult also interfered in the lives of Virginia Troy and Cabot Sutter who have subsequently spent years fighting the demons that stem from their childhoods. Fire eventually destroyed the cult but took the life of Virginia’s mother. Virginia now owns a gallery in Seattle, and is wrestling with the fact that one of her artists is dead but before suiciding, sent a last picture: a painting that makes the gallery owner doubt everything about the so-called suicide – and her own past. She calls on private investigator Cabot Sutter to help her unravel the clues in the painting.

It immediately becomes clear that someone thinks Virginia knows more than she does and that she must be stopped. Complicating the whole affair is the mutual desire growing between the two protagonists, but slowly and surely they move closer to the source of their shared memories. Having known for years that the man who led the cult and had done so much damage, was dead, they are faced with question of who is behind the current spate of deadly troubles.

This is a suspenseful novel with lots of twists and turns that will keep the heart pumping for many days.

Until recently I had not heard the name Jayne Ann Krentz, which she uses for contemporary romantic suspense. She is often asked why she use a variety of pen names.  It is so that readers always know which of her three worlds they will be entering when they pick up one of her books. Promise Not to Tell is a contemporary romantic suspense thriller. According to its author, it fits a class of books that celebrate women’s heroic virtues and values:  courage, honor, determination and a belief in the healing power of love.

In addition to her fiction writing, Ms Krentz is the editor of, and a contributor to, a non-fiction essay collection, Dangerous Men And Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of the Romance published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.

Now, about the novel itself. There is no doubt that it was written by an accomplished author who had long ago learned how to tell a story to make it interesting and convincing. Little things tell a good writer from one not so good. There is an example on page 41 where the topic under discussion is self-defence. There are no slick sophisticated moves in her description. Simply, run if you can because it’s hard to hit a moving target or else fight dirty. Go for the eyes and think of every object around you as a weapon. Simple, practical advice.

What impresses me about this particular writer’s style is that she knows how to vary her sentence length. When it’s time to get information across, he language is clipped, the sentences short.

Technically, she resigned. But, yes, she was forced out. It’s not exactly a state secret. I’ve already told the cops (143),

But when there is no need for action, she favours the long relaxed sentence as in

She had been surprised to discover that she was taking an unfamiliar satisfaction in the knowledge that she had such a concerned circle of family and friends (299).

Of course when everybody is relaxed and thinks all the drama is finished…it isn’t, and there is a development as there often is in this style of writing that suggests a sequel.

A very well written, exciting and suspenseful book, promising lots of enjoyable reading.

Promise Not to Tell


By Jayne Ann Krentz

Piatkus/Penguin Random House

ISBN: 978-0-349-41591-8

$29.99; 336pp

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