If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood by Gregg Olsen

‘Less of the worst was better than none.’

True crime books are often disturbing.  I found this one is more disturbing than most.  Why?  For years, Shelly Knotek (Raymond, Washingon State, USA) abused, degraded, and tortured her daughters Nikki, Sami, and Tori.  In 2004, she was sentenced to 22 years in prison on one count of second-degree murder and one count of manslaughter.  She was found responsible for the deaths of two people, Kathy Loreno and Ronald Woodworth.  Shelly Knotek is still in prison.  Her husband David, who received a 15-year sentence for the second-degree murder of Shane Watson (Shelly’s nephew) has since been released.

In this book, Mr Olsen tells the stories of Nikki, Sami, and Tori, of their lives with Shelly and of how they escaped.  Shelly herself showed absolutely no regard for any human life except her own.  She cajoled, manipulated, and ultimately destroyed several lives.  The details are distressing.

For those who wonder why the sisters did not seek help earlier: the control abusers have over their victims is often paralysing.  And Shelly Knotek exercised absolute control emotionally (and often physically) over her victims.  Nikki, Sami, and Tori have survived.

I did not enjoy reading this book, but I admire the courage that the sisters found to tell their stories.  Reading about it is uncomfortable, living it must have been horrific.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith