Category Archives: Big Lies in a Small Town

Review: Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

Title: Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Historical (’40s), Fiction
Length: 400 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


From New York Times bestselling author Diane Chamberlain comes an irresistible new novel in Big Lies in a Small Town.

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?


Weaving back and forth in time, Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain is a riveting novel about two women linked by a mural.

In 2018, Morgan Christopher is stunned when Lisa Williams and her lawyer arrange for her early parole from prison. Morgan is serving time for a DUI accident which severely injured the driver of the other car. Despite her assertions of innocence, she is convicted and sentenced to a three year prison term. The early release is not without conditions and although out of her depth, Morgan plans to meet the stipulation to restore a Depression era mural painted by Anna Dale.

For unknown reasons, both the mural and Anna disappeared without a trace in 1941.  However, Lisa’s father, renowned painter Jesse Williams, is in possession of the mural at the time of his death.  For unknown reasons, he selected Morgan to restore the mural so it can be prominently display in the soon to be opened art gallery.  Morgan is aided on her seemingly impossible task by the gallery’s curator, Oliver Jones. Both are the recipients of Jesse’s largesse, and they are determined to fulfill his last wishes.

Morgan is grateful for the second chance but she remains haunted by the fate of the DUI accident’s victim. She keeps her fretful thoughts at bay through hard work but it is impossible for her put her concerns behind her.  As she works to restore  the mural, Morgan is intrigued and confused by some elements of the beautiful piece of art.  Now emotionally invested in the project, she begins searching for information about Anna.  But will Morgan unearth the truth about what happened to Anna’s initial vision of the project and the final painting?

In 1940, Anna welcomes the diversion of traveling to Edenton, N.C. to plan the mural she has been selected to paint.  But the New Jersey native is unprepared for Southern small town life and the intricacies of race relations. Anna forms a warm relationship with her landlady Myrtle Simms and her daughter Pauline. But not everyone is happy she won the contest and Anna must deal with outright hostility from some of the town’s residents. Nonetheless,  she eagerly begins her project and as she begins taking risks, Anna ignores the warnings from Myrtle and Pauline.  As the deadline fast approaches, Anna undergoes a drastic  personality change that affects her ability to finish the mural. Following her abrupt disappearance, everyone, including Morgan in the present, try to uncover the truth about what happened to both Anna and the mural.

Big Lies in a Small Town is an emotionally compelling novel that touches on racism, mental illness, addiction, women’s inequality and violence towards women. Both story arcs are fascinating with Morgan’s story playing out in real time while Anna’s portion of the storyline is revealed through her diary entries. The characters are vibrantly developed and both time periods are realistically depicted.  Diane Chamberlain brings this thought-provoking novel to a poignant yet ultimately uplifting conclusion.  A thoroughly captivating story that greatly enjoyed and highly recommend.

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Filed under Big Lies in a Small Town, Contemporary, Diane Chamberlain, Fiction, Historical, Historical (40s), Rated B+, Review, St Martin's Press