Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

OIP During 1940, artist Anna Dale won a contest to paint a mural for a post office in a small rural town called Edenton, North Carolina.  Having just lost her mother, she decides to accept the offer and heads there for what she thinks will be a three day stay.  There she is greeted by some folks with excitement, as they have never known a woman artist, but others, such as their own local artist Martin Drapple, who also had entered the contest but lost, and his wife, are not only not thrilled by her presence, but angry. Anna decides to stay in Edenton and create the mural there so she can include all of its people and landmarks.

As she begins the mural, she gets assistance from a few local high school children, one of whom is African American.  But race relations in this small town is very tense and sides seem to be drawn as to whether whites and blacks should be allowed to work together.  Anna decides to listen to herself rather than the townsfolk and ignores their warnings.

And that is where Anna Dale’s story seems to mysteriously end.  No one knows what ever happened to Anna Dale and no one knows where the mural ever ended up.

In 2018, Morgan Christopher who is in a North Carolina jail serving a sentence for a serious drunk driving accident suddenly gets an unexpected new lease on life.  In college Morgan had been working on an art degree.  When she is given an offer to restore an old mural by a certain date for her freedom from jail, she jumps at the chance.

Why she is the one who was chosen is just the first of many mysterious questions surrounding this mural and it’s artist Anna Dale.  As Morgan begins to adjust to her newfound freedom, and tries to come to terms with her former life, the restoration begins to take over her life.  What she starts to uncover under all the dirt, makes no sense.  It’s as if there are clues which have been hidden for some reason, but why?

Is Anna Dale just a crazy woman who had a breakdown while working on a mural? Or is there some deeper dark story she left behind which needs to be deciphered?  But how can you decipher something the trail of which went cold over 40 years ago?

Diane Chamberlain is a master of getting one’s attention and keeping it. From the very first page of Big Lies in a Small Town I was riveted as Chamberlain took mixed up pieces of a puzzle, by flipping back and forth chapters from Anna to Morgan, and began to fit them together one by one so we could find the beautiful secret picture being told.

Thank you to #NetGalley #St.Martin’sPress #DianeChamberlain #BigLiesinaSmallTown for the advanced copy.

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