REVIEW: Big Lies in a Small Town
BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN by Diane Chamberlain is a good rendering of a dual timeline that works seamlessly to move the story forward. I love books about artists. In this one, we get two artists – one modern day and one from the 1940s.
Dual timelines are a favorite storytelling method for me as a reader. Because I read so many, I’m thrilled when one works as seamlessly as this one. How the timelines collided and melded was especially good at forming the mystery and resolution. I also enjoyed the use of historical research and inheritances to allow the characters to discover past secrets.
As a painting is restored by Morgan, who is recently paroled from prison, the mystery of Anna is revealed. What happened to this young woman so full of hope? Morgan is an interesting character, struggling with what put her in jail, and then what got her out. Will she be able to make her life whole again?
This novel was intriguing enough to keep me reading, but it didn’t make me want to rush to the end until very late in the novel. The pacing slowed, which made me drag my feet, always hoping for anticipation to pull me forward. It finally picked up at 84%, allowing the pieces of the mystery to fall into place, which also made me rush to the end.
What I enjoyed most was learning more about art restoration. As an artist, I enjoy the joy of creation, not just with your own work, but the appreciation for the masters. That awe and wonder was excellently portrayed through Morgan. There is also a touch of romance, so for those who have a preference – it’s romantic, but the story is more about an artist’s salvation.
Although most of the lingering mysteries behind Anna’s and Morgan’s lives were tied up, there was one issue with Morgan that wasn’t resolved. That left the book open-ended, feeling as if it needed one more chapter. Normally, I don’t mind subtle cliff-hangers used to make you think, but this one made the book feel incomplete. That’s because this one event was always on Morgan’s mind and very much a part of her healing. I understand it was the last thing she needed to do, but I needed to know the result.
For those vividly affected by violence against women, this story may trigger you. It’s not overly depicted, but violent enough that I need to warn you that it’s part of the content. It’s not pretty, but very important to the novel’s progression.
I was also disappointed by the lack of remorse toward the end of the novel, as if a crime hadn’t been committed because the reasoning behind it was sound, as well as deserved. Understandably, the crime was reasonable, but I expected long-term guilt to finally culminate in demonstrated regret.
I get it that it sometimes takes a village to write a novel, so I always feel bad when a book doesn’t move me as a reader in the way everyone hopes. This one just didn’t do it for me. I was engaged enough to keep reading, but I didn’t feel the characters’ emotion as much as I should. And that minor cliff-hanger clinched my rating. I needed more.
Even though the end was disappointing, I’m still glad I took the time to read this novel. The racism depicted during the 40s was well done, as much as the turn of events in modern day made me hopeful. This book is about forgiveness and celebrating each other for who we are under the color of our skin. That’s the kind of positive message I need in my reading.
Review by Dorine, courtesy of TheZestQuest.com. A digital advanced copy was provided by the publisher for an honest review. Thanks in advance for following links and sharing this review on social media.
Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain
Category: Women’s Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (January 14, 2020)
Rated 3.5 out of 5