Review: Promise Not to Tell by Jayne Ann Krentz

A broken promise reveals a terrifying legacy in Promise Not to Tell, the second book in the Cutler, Sutter & Salinas series by Jayne Ann Krentz.

Promise Not to Tell opens in a troubling fashion: a reclusive artist is convinced that the villain who ruined her life is still alive. No longer can Hannah Brewster believe the claims that the monster Quinton Zane is dead, because she senses she’s being watched—and then she spots Zane on the remote island where she lives.

She had known then that she could no longer deceive herself into thinking that she was hallucinating. The truth was always shatteringly clear at night.

At midnight she had picked up a brush, her hand firm and steady, and begun to paint her final picture. She had continued painting every night until her creation was finished.

And then she had waited for the demon to return.

When Zane returns, Hannah makes the decision to die rather than risk coming under Zane’s spell again:

She could not risk getting sucked back into his web. She had a duty to protect the children. She was the only one left who could warn them.

Hannah torches her cabin, the “wild flames” illuminating “her final painting in a hellish light.” Her last thought before throwing herself off the cliffs into the deep sea below is that although she had momentarily defeated him, “others” would have to continue the fight for which “she had sent the warning.”

Seattle art gallery owner Virginia Troy seeks the services of a private detective agency because of the inexplicable death of her client Hannah Brewster. In the wake of Hannah’s suicide, Virginia fears that Quinton Zane, the cult leader behind the horrific fire that killed her mother and haunted Hannah, may still be alive. Troy has a deeply personal reason for choosing Cutler, Sutter & Salinas—Anson Salinas saved her life years earlier.

“I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me this long to track you down so that I could thank you. Embarrassed to tell you that I came looking for you now only because I need your help.”

“No need to apologize,” Anson said. “I was just doing my job that night. You were a little kid caught up in the craziness. There was no reason you should have come looking for me as an adult.”

The last time he had seen Virginia Troy she was a child of nine, one of the eight children trapped in the blazing barn. He’d used his vehicle to crash through the locked doors, tossed all eight kids into the SUV and reversed out of the inferno; a hound out of hell. Shortly after he had gotten them all to safety, the barn had collapsed in on itself.

Anson not only saved eight children from a fiery death, he adopted “three teenage boys who were all carrying a few scars,” orphans of the inferno. Virginia Troy’s grandparents raised her, but like the three orphaned boys, she was forever changed by the fire that killed their mothers. One of Anson’s partners in the agency is his foster son, Cabot Sutter. He remembers Virginia Troy, as she does him.

“Virginia,” he said. He spoke very softly. “I remember you. Little kid. Dark hair. Big eyes. You had a book that night. You wouldn’t leave it behind.” 


“And I remember you,” Virginia said. Her voice was equally neutral. “You were the one who told the rest of us to go low to avoid the smoke.”

Cabot Sutter and Virginia Troy join forces to suss out the mystery behind Hannah Brewster’s silent scream of suicide. Promise Not to Tell is a conventional thriller to the extent that the various deaths and recurring mayhem are investigated and ultimately explained. But what elevates the story to another level is the relationship between Virginia and Cabot. Their shared past is something they have in common, but it goes beyond that. Their lives have been changed in imperceptible ways—ways that only a fellow survivor can fully understand. 

Cabot and Virginia work together to understand why and how Hannah died. They travel to a bed and breakfast on Hannah’s island, but as always, even with a private investigator standing guard, Virginia’s sleep is broken. Cabot softly raps on her bedroom door.

“It’s one thirty in the morning.” She glanced at the clock. “Make that one forty-five.”

“No kidding.”

“That’s the time that Zane torched the compound.”

“Sure is. Damn. You think there might be a connection?”

“Call me insightful.”

“My nighttime habits ruined a lot of relationships,” Cabot said.

“I know what you mean. I’ve given up on what people like to call relationships.”

As Cabot succinctly states, “Sounds like we have a few things in common.” The conjoined wisdom of Cabot and Virginia is the realization that only people who are unafraid to examine their past are the ones who can break the shackles tying them to it. Virginia and Cabot solve the mystery behind Hannah’s death, but more importantly, they give each other the mutual acceptance to move past their tortured early years. Ultimately and courageously, they give each other permission to embrace a future full of possibility and promise.


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Janet Webb aka @JanetETennessee has unpredictable opinions on books. Season ticket holder of the Oakland Athletics baseball team. Social media devotee. Stories on royals and politics catch my eye. Ottawa born. Grew up on the books of Helen MacInnes, Mary Stewart, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Anne Perry … I'm always looking for a great new mystery series.

Read all of Janet Webb's articles for Criminal Element!


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