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Saturday, January 25, 2020

Winning Elements Combine to Create Compelling, Entertaining Mystery

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

1939—Aspiring artist Anna Dale is thrilled when her sketch wins a federal contest designed to install colorful murals on the walls of post offices throughout the United States.  Unexpectedly, the 22-year-old is assigned to paint in the tiny Southern town of Edenton.  With the recent death of her mother, Anna has nothing to keep her in New Jersey, so she settles down in the North Carolina town, determined to do her best to immortalize its virtues in her mural.  While some of the townsfolk welcome her with open arms, others look askance at her city airs, her unconventional ideas, and the fact that she bested Edenton's resident artist in the contest.  When a shocking turn of events shows Anna just how deep some people's resentment lies, she's forced to decide if completing the mural is really worth the risk.

2018—In jail for a crime she didn't commit, 22-year-old Morgan Christopher is surprised when she receives a visit from two women she doesn't know.  When they offer her a job restoring an old painting, at the bequest of a well-known artist who has recently died, Morgan's shocked.  Especially when she learns the task comes with a generous payout and immediate release from incarceration.  Morgan can't say no.  Although she knows nothing about art restoration and can't fathom why a famous painter would want her for the job, Morgan vows to do the best she can.  When she sees the painting—an old mural that was never installed at the Edenton, North Carolina, post office like it should have been—she's intrigued by the artist's odd renderings of the town.  Was Anna Dale insane?  Why did she paint such weird motifs?  The more Morgan works on the painting, the more she has to know: What happened to Anna Dale, a talented painter who was never heard from again after she left Edenton?

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain combines some intriguing elements—small-town secrets, a mysterious painting, and an impossible task assigned to an improbable underdog—to create an engrossing, entertaining mystery that I quite enjoyed.  Anna and Morgan are likable characters, both of whom are sympathetic and admirable.  Although I know little about painting, it was interesting to learn about the restoration process.  I also enjoyed the pacing of this story, which kept me engrossed and guessing.  The Big Reveal at the end of the book didn't surprise me at all, however, but that's okay because it felt so right.  With all of these winning elements, Big Lies in a Small Town is engaging, compelling, and enjoyable. I'll definitely be checking out Chamberlain's backlist now.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a little of The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a few F-bombs, plus milder expletives), blood/gore, violence, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Big Lies in a Small Town from the generous folks at St. Martin's Press via those at NetGalley.  Thank you!


  1. I think I need to read this book!

  2. Another author to put on my list! Thanks! (I think 😏)

  3. I remember seeing this as someone's WOW not too long ago. Glad it was a success for you, even if you were not quite surprised by the reveal.

  4. I'm glad to know this one is so good. I've already put it on my Goodreads want to read list. :)

  5. I've noticed the author's name before in bookstores but never stopped to take a look. This one sounds really interesting, though, so it's going on the old TBR.

  6. I have a copy of this in my review pile. It sounds wonderful and I have heard great things about Chamberlain. I am glad that you enjoyed it, Susan!

  7. We have a family friend who is an art restorer and his stories are always fascinating. I'm glad this one turned out to be good.

  8. Great review Susan. I like that the characters are likeable and that the reader learns a bit about art restoration. I have this one coming up soon and am really looking forward to it.

  9. What an intriguing blurb! I haven't read any Chamberlain though I always mean to try something by her.


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