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Summary of If You Tell 

Short summary

This is a story of three sisters, now grown women, living entirely different lives but connected by a haunting past. Nikki, Sami, and Tori Knotek occasionally confront horrifying and youthful memories about their mother by busying themselves with individual endeavors. However, like flowing waters, the memories repeatedly seek out cracks through which they slip back into the sisters’ lives. This summary puts the true-life story of a psychotic and sadistic woman into perspective. Another revelation about her persona is that she’s an unscrupulous serial killer who happens to be a parent. For Nikki, Sami, and Tori Knotek, their childhood becomes an experience to remember for a lifetime. Gregg Olsen, the author of “If You Tell,” has gained popularity for his works in the true crime and thriller niche. Olsen was named Wall Street Journal bestselling author and New York Times bestselling author on four occasions. These honors are credits for his nonfiction books and novels, most of which are crime-related. “Their parents had killed multiple people. They’d done the most cruel and vile things anyone could do to another person. And so much of it had happened right before their eyes.” ~ Gregg Olsen

Key points


Life with a filial monster

Nikki, Sami, and Tori could not do anything about their mother, Shelly Knotek (Michelle Lynn Watson Rivardo Long Knotek), because she was an unagreeable person. Though fathered by three different men, the three sisters found solace in enduring the despicable personality of their mother. This sisterhood can be said to be the only recourse of the Knotek girls, and truly, it was the only aspect of their lives that Shelly could not take away. It gave them the mojo to live through a traumatic childhood.
The malformation of a child’s foundational years may turn out to be the undoing of a family, community, or nation.
There are several side effects to growing up in a dysfunctional home, that’s if there’s a home in the first place. However, the Knotek sisters were able to forge a meaningful life from the ashes of their traumatic childhood. Indeed, Shelly Knotek did not have a smooth upbringing herself; she had abusive tendencies right from a young age. Her parents, her father particularly, tried providing her with whatever she requested, which yielded counter-productive results. At a point, abusing her immediate family ceased to give her satiety for the ever-growing appetite for mischief and evil, and it graduated into murder.

This summary could be the key to unraveling narcissistic tendencies in people around you. It may help you identify the red flags to be mindful of regarding childhood sadism before it makes a full-blown criminal out of your ward, like Shelly Knotek.

The not-so-innocent beginnings of Shelly Knotek

Les Watson, Shelly’s dad, grew up in Oregon and had a second marriage with a beautiful high school graduate — Lara Stallings. He had initially lied to Stallings about being four years her senior when in reality, he was older by 10 years.
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An innocent-looking egg hatching into a vicious reptilia


The first husband of an uncanny beauty


Shelly’s adulthood and the beginning of a criminal life


Narcissistic camouflage of a social outlier


How law caught up with the elusive murderers



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