Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

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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?

*****

Thank you St. Martin’s Press for my advanced copy of Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain in exchange for my honest review.  This title released January 14, 2020.

The story follows a dual timeline with POVs from two female lead protagonists: Anna Dale – an artist, in 1940, and Morgan Christopher – an art student, in 2018.  We are introduced to Morgan while she is incarcerated for a DUI accident she was involved in that almost took someone’s life.  As she reaches the end of her sentence, she propositioned with an early release and in exchange she must restore a mural that was painted by artist, Anna Dale in 1940.  Morgan must complete this mural restoration by opening day of a gallery it’s to be featured in, which a few weeks away from the date of the request.

The mural was left by its original artist in disarray without any explanation when the artist mysteriously disappeared.  In a race against time to finish the restoration, Morgan is also working overtime to understand what caused the artist to leave the mural the way she did and why the urgency to have it restored by a certain date.

The mystery behind the mural and the artist from 1940 really grabbed me and had me thoroughly engaged the entire length of this book.  I needed to know how these women were connected and WHY!  I was satisfied with how it all came together and really appreciate that it wasn’t a predictable ending.

This was a compelling read that touched on a number of sensitive topics: racism, and mental illness but in a tactful way.  With the alternating time periods, you could see how much things have changed within each of these areas – I thought this was a well-crafted and really gave the story feeling.

This was my first Chamberlain and definitely won’t be my last.  She is a master storyteller who really knows how to create characters and storylines that make you FEEL.  I look forward to reading some of her backlist titles now and think she will easily become an auto-read author for me.

My rating: 5/5

Happy Reading,
The Reading Beauty

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