Don’t Breathe a Word
Jennifer McMahon

Harper Collins
Hardcover/380 pages
ISBN: 9780061689376
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". . . a tale that is at its heart full of creeping horror . . ."

Subtle, creeping horror that turns reality inside out.

Phoebe heard about the little girl lost in the woods, supposedly the victim of the Fairy King. Something about the story intrigued and interested her. The town was near where she lived so she went to take a look, catching sight of a young boy looking out of the upstairs window at her. His eyes were so sad, so full of pain and loss, that she felt connected to him.

When a little girl all in pink offered to show her something the Fairy King left behind for a price, Phoebe paid the girl and followed her into the woods, the same woods where the little girl disappeared, losing sight of the girl in pink and control of the fear bubbling inside her. When the girl reappeared she had a paper bag, inside of which was a six-fingered glove, and suddenly Phoebe wasn’t so eager to learn any more. She turned and walked away.

Fifteen years later, when a young man brought a wounded owl into the veterinarian’s office where Phoebe worked, she was smitten. It wasn’t until they began dating Phoebe discovered he was the brother of the missing girl and that she was falling in love. Together they would follow Lisa’s path into the woods to find a truth that would change everything they knew.

It is difficult to create a contemporary story with fairies and not fall into the same pit that swallowed the little British girls into a maelstrom of conjecture and fraud. Jennifer McMahon does just that.

On the surface, Don’t Breathe a Word is a story of child abuse, or maybe it is a story of incest, or it could be a conspiracy or all lies. Each chapter brings hints of new discoveries and just when it is certain what the story is about, McMahon twists the truth again until there is no way to be certain what is happening, except that something is definitely wrong.

Each foray into the woods, hypothetical and real, is an intricate dance that becomes more complicated and more terrifying with each step. By using Phoebe’s and Lisa’s points of view and bringing them together, even at the end, there remains a modicum of truth, except that everything is a lie—or is it? McMahon skews reality, turns it upside down and inside out, with a tale that is at its heart full of creeping horror with an ending that left me gasping for air and sunlight and anything but fairies and forests. Don’t Breathe a Word isn’t about sweet, magical and delightful fairies, but full of dark, dangerous and evil people willing surrendering their lives and future to a monster with a black heart crouching in an abyss of unimaginable horror smiling through the lies.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell