A few weeks ago I was listening to the My Favorite Murder podcast when they were talking about this woman who started a “clinic” to help people with a myriad of health conditions by starving them. She wound up killing a bunch of her patients – the story was horrific. I can’t remember if it was Karen or Georgia doing the telling but she got a lot of the story by reading a book that Gregg Olsen wrote about it.
Weirdly, a few days later someone from Gregg Olsen’s publishing team reached out to see if I would be interested in reading his new book, out December 1st. I didn’t even finish reading the email before I replied YES.
I thought the story of the starvation cure was awful but it has nothing on the heinous deeds of Shelly Knopek and her husband, Dave. If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood tells the story of Shelly and Dave Knopek, the Washington State couple who abused, terrorized and murdered three people who had moved in with them, while also inflicting heinous abuse on their three daughters.
I very much appreciated that Olsen began the book by telling readers that the Knopek’s daughters, Nikki, Sami and Tori are today, safe and thriving in their new lives, away from the devastating abuse that was forced upon them for years. As I made my way through their story, I hung onto the fact that the girls, at least, were going to be OK in the end. The things that they saw, the things that were done to them, the way their mother gaslighted them throughout their lives – it is remarkable to me that these women are anywhere near OK today.
This story is one of the worst that I’ve ever read and Olsen does an incredible job of not reveling in the gruesome details. He manages to describe what happened without an ounce of rubbernecking which I for one was grateful for. I got the sense the entire time that he was a friend of the family, someone who had worked to gain the trust of these women who had burdened with horrific family secrets for so long. I’m not trying to be coy by not describing the details – for one thing, I think the reading experience is a bit better by not knowing too much, for another, it truly is a disgusting tale and if true crime isn’t your thing, you don’t need to know the details!
I couldn’t put this book down. I raced through the pages in less than two days, reluctant to leave the family at any point where things were especially bad. Olsen’s writing is spare, to the point, sticking to the facts and refraining from embellishing a story that’s already worse than anything you’ve read recently. It’s the kind of book that I wouldn’t read before bed, for fear that the Knopeks would haunt my dreams. I recommend full daylight when someone else is home for your own reading experience.
If you’re a true crime reader, if you’re a murderino, if you love 48 Hours and Dateline, I know you’re going to want to pick up If You Tell when it’s out next week.
Thanks to Dandelion PR for an ARC of this book.