From New York Times bestselling author Diane Chamberlain comes a novel of chilling intrigue, a decades-old disappearance, and one woman’s quest to find the truth…
“A novel about arts and secrets...grippingly told...pulls readers toward a shocking conclusion.”—People magazine, Best New Books
North Carolina, 2018:
Morgan Christopher's life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, her dream of a career in art is put on hold—until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will get her released from prison immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to be free, 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 in great need of 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?
“Chamberlain, a master storyteller, keeps readers hooked, with a story line that leavens history and social commentary with romance and mystery.”—Lexington Dispatch
This rich novel from Chamberlain (The Silent Sister) tracks artists whose lives intertwine after a mural is commissioned for a small town. In 1939, 22-year-old New Jersey artist Anna Dale is in Edenton, N.C., having won a federal art contest and being chosen to paint a mural for Edenton's post office. The completed piece, however, is mysteriously never installed. In 2018, another 22-year-old artist, Morgan Christopher, is connected to the mural. Morgan has served a year in a North Carolina prison for a felony DUI, but she's released by a powerful private lawyer in order to restore Anna's damaged mural, which has been in storage. An artist and philanthropist, Jesse Jameson Williams, has died, and in his will, his adult daughter, Lisa, is instructed to ensure that Morgan restore the painting. Morgan doesn't understand how Williams knew of her, though she had admired his work for years. Single father Oliver Jones, another recipient of Williams's generosity and curator of Williams's gallery, uses his training in restoration to help Morgan. She's grateful for his help, and an attraction develops between them. Anna and Morgan's passion for their craft serves as an enticing connection as they work on the same project decades apart. Chamberlain's depictions of creative beauty and perseverance across time and in the face of inevitable obstacles will keep readers turning the pages.
Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain is an intriguing story. I like how the story is laid out in the two different timelines. As Morgan Christopher works on the mural, we get to follow Anna as she works on creating it. It was interesting learning about the mural competition along with what it took to create a mural and restore one. This is the first novel I have read by Diane Chamberlain and it will not be my last. I thought it was well-written with developed characters and a lovely, Southern setting. The descriptions allowed me to imagine the setting and the characters. I could picture the small Southern town with its “powerful” men (to me they were overweight men who were indulging the little lady) and uptight ladies who did not appreciate Anna’s unique artistic ways. I felt for Morgan who took the rap for a crime she did not commit because love led her astray. I thought the author captured the feel of the south in the 1940s. I found it humorous how scandalized people were when Anna wore trousers. I liked the two mysteries in the story. We wonder what happened to Anna and why was Morgan chosen to restore the mural. I became engrossed in the story because I was eager to learn the answers. There is some offensive language along with violence (murder, violence against a female) as well as racism and alcoholism (so you are forewarned). I enjoyed how it all came together in the end (just as I hoped it would). Big Lies in a Small Town was a fascinating story with an ending that did not disappoint.
My favorite book ever! Love Diane Chamberlain.
Subtle twists. Detailed delivery. Compassion and empathy. I loved everything about this book!