Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Don't Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon

After loving Jennifer McMahon's debut Promise Not To Tell, and enjoying her follow-up The Island of Lost Girls, I was definitely excited to pick up her fourth, and most recent, adult novel Don't Breathe a Word- her third book, Dismantled, is definitely on my To Read list. Like her previous novels, this is a book told in chapters which alternate between the past and present, two mysteries entangled together by one female protagonist. In Don't Breathe a Word, Phoebe, a woman in her thirties, is in love with a much younger man, Sam, a sensible good man who helps her keep the demons of her past at bay. After a troubled childhood, Phoebe can't believe her good fortune, but soon odd, unexplained events begin happening to the couple reminding Phoebe of the first time she saw Sam. That first time, was fifteen years ago when Sam's older sister Lisa disappeared into the woods behind her house and was never seen again. Before Lisa left, she told Sam she was going to meet the King of the Faeries and become his queen. Now, Phoebe and Sam are forced to question their reality as a terrible promise Sam made years ago comes back to haunt them, a promise that may destroy them all.

From the start, Don't Breathe a Word is a wonderful kind of mysterious and creepy that McMahon does so wonderfully well. It also has a tint of fantasy of the kind that appeared in Promise Not to Tell but was absent in The Island of Lost Girls, where events get twisted around and the reader isn't quite sure what is real and what is not. This time though, the fantasy element is the strongest it has been in the books by McMahon I've read, and I'm not sure I was entirely in love with it. The ending of the novel reminded me a bit of an M. Night Shyamalan movie and was perhaps a bit too ambiguous for my liking. The conclusion also felt rushed in comparison to the rest of the book, McMahon spends so much time developing the characters and the story that I wanted things to wrap up a little slower and more completely. That said, I found most of the novel absolutely riveting and McMahon is incredibly skilled at developing page-turning and unexpected mystery.

I really enjoy McMahon's writing style and her ability to create lush rural settings and this book was no exception. The parts of the story that took place in the forest felt vibrant and alive, and she is really able to get into the mind of a child believably. Out of the three books by McMahon I have read so far, her debut Promise Not to Tell remains my favourite but Don't Breathe a Word comes in second. I definitely plan to read Dismantled as well, the only adult novel of hers I haven't picked up yet. If you are looking for a mystery with a fantastical twist and smooth, page-turning prose I definitely recommend delving into McMahon's most recent offering, Don't Breathe a Word- it's just as creepy as the cover would leave you to believe.

Release Date: May 17th, 2011
Pages: 464
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This review was a part of TLC Book Tours. Click here to read what other tour hosts thought. For the purpose of this review I was provided with a copy of the book which did not require a positive review. The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own.

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