Big Lies In A Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

Big Lies In A Small Town Released: Jan 20, 2020
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Kiwi Rated It:
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North Carolina, 2018: Morgan Christopher's life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women's Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold―until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.

North Carolina, 1940: Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and desperate for work, she accepts. But what she doesn't expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.

What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies?

Please Note: While it goes without saying that many of the books I review contain content that may be disturbing to some, Big Lies In A Small Town contains themes that may be especially triggering, specifically rape and/or sexual abuse. Please read at your own discretion.

In 1940, artist Anna Dale enters a competition and is given the opportunity to create a mural for a post-office in a small North Carolina town. Having just lost her mother, Anna is looking forward to the distraction and the work. But not everyone in Edenton is welcoming, especially not a local artist, or his friends and family, who felt Anna had stolen his opportunity. When she takes on a young African-American student at the request of his teacher, even more of the town come out against her.

In 2018, former art student, Morgan Christopher, is offered a unique opportunity to gain early parole from a North Carolina prison. She has been tapped by a recently deceased artist, whose work she admires greatly, to restore a large mural as the main focal point of his new art gallery. Confused as to why she would be an integral part of the will for a man she had never met, and completely underqualified, Morgan jumps at the opportunity for freedom.

As Morgan works on the mural, she learns that Anna Dale disappeared under mysterious circumstances, rumored to have gone mad and that the mural itself never made it to the post office. Uncovering several gruesome oddities underneath the grimy paint, her fascination with the artist grows.

Told in two timelines, we follow the two women through the creation and restoration processes, as well as through their personal struggles and trauma.

A bit of a slow burn at first, it doesn't take Big Lies In A Small Town long to kick into high gear and the last two-thirds was read at a breakneck pace. Diane Chamberlain clearly does her research and it shows. Her characters in both timelines are well fleshed out and you can't help but be drawn to them. The timelines paralleled each other perfectly and every situation, no matter how heavy, was written with compassion and care.

While not a traditional mystery, Big Lies In A Small Town is a riveting read filled with family secrets, lies, and a couple of lovely little twists, all wrapped up with a very satisfying ending.

TL;DR: Kiwi's Quick Take

What I Loved: Big Lies In A Small Town weaves together past and present in a uniquely wonderful way. With well-drawn characters that you want to root for and situations that are believable, even when they're uncomfortable, you are going to feel all the feels.

What I Didn't Love: Little bit of a slow start, but it doesn't take long before you're riveted.

Conclusion: A great historical novel/mystery with insight into life in America's South at the end of the Great Depression. With wonderful and compassionate writing that doesn't shy away from uncomfortable topics, Big Lies In A Small Town has made me a huge fan of Diane Chamberlain.

  Diane Chamberlain

  Big Lies In A Small Town was provided free by St. Martin's Press (via NetGalley) in return for my honest opinion.

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