Thursday, December 19, 2019

Books: True-Crime Thriller "If You Tell" By Gregg Olsen

If You Tell
By Gregg Olsen
Thomas & Mercer; hardcover, $24.95; paperback, $15.95, ebook, $4.99

New York Times and Amazon Charts bestselling author Gregg Olsen has written more than twenty-five books, including The Sound of Rain and The Weight of Silence in the Nicole Foster series. 

In his latest nonfiction book, If You Tell, Olsen tells the shocking and empowering true-crime story of three sisters determined to survive their mother's house of horrors.

When sisters Nikki, Sami, and Tori Knotek would hear the word mom for over a decade, it triggered memories that have been their secret since childhood. That is, until now.

For years, behind the closed doors of their Raymond, Washington, farmhouse, their sadistic mother, Shelly, subjected them to unthinkable abuse, degradation, torture, and psychic terrors.

Nikki, Sami, and Tori Knotek endured it together and developed a defiant bond that made them far less vulnerable than Shelly imagined. Even as others were taken into their mother's dark web, the sisters found the strength and courage to escape an nightmare that continued to escalate and culminated in multiple murders.

If You Tell is harrowing and heartrending, a survivor's story of absolute evil. It is also a story of the freedom and justice that Nikki, Sami, and Tori risked their lives to fight for. They will always be sisters, and they found a light in the darkness to become the resilient women they are today.

In this excerpt, Olsen writes of what the girls endured from their mother: Nikki couldn't quite be sure how long her mother kept her locked in her upstairs bedroom in the Louderback House. Nor could she recall why her mother had dished out that particular punishment. There were no locks on the doorknobs, so Shelly employed a butcher knife lodged into the doorframe to keep her daughter inside. It was a technique she'd use whenever she wanted any of the kids to stay put.
Shelly told Nikki she was ugly and worthless, and she needed time to think about why she was such a rotten girl. She was told that she'd be there awhile.
"As long as it takes," Shelly said.
Nikki later recalled it might have been for the entire summer.
"I stopped counting the days," she said.
In reality, Nikki almost didn't mind the banishment, first to the bedroom, then the closet. The closet space was small, airless, and windowless. After a while, though, she even welcomed the imprisonment. It meant that she was away from her parents.
She'd hear the knife move. The door would be flung open. She'd snap to attention, never cowering. Just facing her mom with resolve. 
"Use this," Shelly barked, handing Nikki a plasic bucket from the Aberdeen Home Depot.
She didn't have to ask what for.
Over the next few weeks, Shelly only let Nikki out to empty the bucket. She was not permitted to have any contact with Sami.
Shelly told Sami the reason behind the exile and the importance of her no-contact order.
"Your sister is bad," she said. "Do you understand?"
"Yes, Mom," she lied.
Sami was worried about Nikki. She'd been locked in her room too, but only for a day or two.
A few times, Sami was allowed to go into the room to retrieve Nikki's toiley bucket. She'd empty it in the bathroom downstairs and then hurry back up while her mom stood guard at the door. She also tried to stay in touch by tossing small pine cones up at her sister's window when their mother was sleeping during the day.
Nikki knew she was in prison. But prison, she decided, had its perks. She was away from her mother's nasty tirades. She didn't have to walk on eggshells only to find out she'd nevertheless done something wrong. In a way, she was free. The best part was the massive collection of books her mother stored in the walk-in closet in Nikki's bedroom.
"That summer I found out how much I loved to read. I read all of the Nancy Drew books that I had, then moved on to her mom's John Saul and Dean Koontz. She loved horror. She had boxes of paperbacks and I read every one of them."
When the family dog Freckles had her puppies, Sami alerted Nikki with a pine cone tossed against the bedroom window.
"There's eight of them!" she whisper-yelled.
"I want to see them," Nikki said, then touched her finger to her lips to remind her sister to be quiet.
Sami nodded.
Freckles and her puppies were the source of a happy time.
Nikki sent the bucket down on two bathrobe ties she'd fashioned together in a move that she'd seen on a prison-escape film. Sami gave the bucket a good scrubbing, and when she was sure their mother wouldn't see, she sent two puppies up, terrified they'd be caught.
Nikki cuddled the puppies for as long as she dared, then lowered them back to her sister.

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