ARC REVIEW: Big Lies In A Small Town – by Diane Chamberlain

Title: Big Lies In A Small Town
Author: Diane Chamberlain
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
First published: January 14th 2020
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: January 5th 2020
Pages: 400

“I stared at the signature a while longer, wondering how a life that had started with so much promise could now be shrouded in such mystery.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve heard so many great things about Diane Chamberlain‘s stories over the years and I’m still not sure why it took me this long to finally pick up one of her titles. I must have more than one title waiting on my kindle, but somehow other books always got in the way… That’s why I thought having an ARC of her newest title, and therefore a deadline, would be the perfect little push I needed to finally remedy this. The fact that the blurb of Big Lies In A Small Town sounds absolutely fascinating definitely helped that decision… Now that I’ve had the chance to finally try her work, I will definitely come back for more soon!

What made Big Lies In A Small Town so successful for me? There were quite a few factors, but let’s start with the basics of the plot. The story is told with the help of a dual timeline and two POVs, something that can go either way for me as it is very hard to get the balance between past and present just right. I think Diane Chamberlain hit the nail on the head with this story though. I felt both Morgan in the present and Anna in the past were equally important, equally well developed and equally crucial to the plot. The dual timeline structure turned this story into a complex, rich and very much satisfying historical fiction read… The POV switches only adding to the suspense and the mystery around Anna and the mural instead of distracting you.

There are a lot of different elements in play in both past and present POVs. We have Morgan with elements including DUI, prison, alcoholism, feelings of guilt, art restoration work, family and even romance. Then we have Anna with elements including racism and the South, gender discrimination, abuse, rape, family, mental health, crime and art of course. That seems to be a lot to have on just one plate, but Diane Chamberlain somehow makes it work and the result is an abundant and lavish story that also has more than one hidden deeper meaning.

It was fascinating to learn that Big Lies In A Small Town was actually based on real events and that the small town Edenton, North Carolina, does actually exist… And so did Anna Dale. It shows that a lot of research went into making this story feel authentic, and the details and descriptions really took the story to the next level. Racism and related problems in the 1940 South play a very important role in this story, and I thought it was described realistically. Likewise, we have Morgan in the present with a different set of problems, which are likewise realistically described. This story proves just how important is to get the research right before starting a story based on true events!

As for the characters… While Morgan and Anna weren’t my favorite characters of their corresponding POVs, I can’t deny that their development in general is very well done and they both intrigued me. Favorites would probably be Oliver and Jesse, but each character put his or her own stamp on the story and they all played a role in representing the many different elements of Big Lies In A Small Town. The pace of this story might be a tad slow, as there are a lot of descriptions and their is a lot of focus on the characters as a whole. But there is also plenty of suspense, and the mystery around Anna and the strange elements on the mural will keep you on your toes as you try to discover the truth.

Big Lies In A Small Town is a historical fiction read that isn’t afraid to go big and throw a complex and wide-ranging plot with a deeper meaning at you; well researched and well developed, the result is an abundant story following two flawed but absolutely fascinating characters. Fans of the genre who don’t mind a slower pace will most likely devour this one!


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WWW Wednesdays #250 – January 8th

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I’m finally reading Things You Save In A Fire by Katherine Center, a title I’ve heard lots of fantastic things about and one I’ve been looking forward to since finishing How To Walk Away… I’m also starting The Home by Sarah Stovell for my upcoming blog tour stop, and I’m fully ready to be blown away as I already know I will most likely love it if it’s anything like her debut Exquisite.

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren (4/5 stars) REVIEW 21/01
This book came exactly at the right time for me and I ended up having so much fun reading it! Nothing better than a proper and funny contemporary romance to help taking a little break from all those thriller reads… This was definitely a winner for me.

2. Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire (5/5 stars) REVIEW 
I loved every single minute with Come Tumbling Down and I already know it will appear on my list of 2020 favorites even this early on in the year. Oh yes, it’s THAT good! Simply electrifying.

3. Nothing To Lose by Victoria Selman (4/5 stars) REVIEW 21/01
I have to admit that while book three is still my favorite of the series, I had a great time reading Nothing To Lose and managed to finish it in less than a day. If you like your thrillers fast, action-packed and filled with suspenseful moments, this series is definitely for you!

4. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming (3/5 stars) NO REVIEW
I loved the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang movie adaptation with Dick Van Dyke when I was little… Even though I don’t remember all the details of the movie and it has been at least 20 years since I last saw it, I was curious to see what the original story was like. I’m not sure if my memory completely failed me, but this definitely wasn’t what I remembered of the movie, and I wasn’t all that impressed by what I found to be honest… I felt the spark the movie had was missing, and the plot and writing style just didn’t do it for me. The illustrations were a nice touch though!

5. Big Lies In A Small Town by Diane Chamberlain (4/5 stars) REVIEW 12/01
Big Lies In A Small Town is a historical fiction read that isn’t afraid to go big and throw a complex and wide-ranging plot with a deeper meaning at you; well researched and well developed, the result is an abundant story following two flawed but absolutely fascinating characters. Fans of the genre who don’t mind a slower pace will most likely devour this one!

6. Dark Mother Earth by Kristian Novak (DNF at 31%; 0 stars) DNF REVIEW 14/01
I hate having a DNF this early in the year already, but I just couldn’t get myself to keep reading this. The story is too chaotic, superslow, nothing makes sense and nothing much seems to be happening even almost a third into the book. The characters are despicable and hardly make any sense. Also, there is way too much sex talk involved… More in my DNF review.

7. The Liar’s Daughter by Claire Allan (4/5 stars) REVIEW 20/01
I loved my first experience with her psychological thrillers last year and I’ve been looking forward to read this one… I literally started and finished it in less than a day! Some of the plot was quite predictable, some parts quite uncomfortable, but overall it’s a super engaging, quick and interesting read.

8. Like This For Ever by Sharon Bolton (4/5 stars) REVIEW 26/01
I finally came around reading my TBR jar pick and it has been interesting to meet up with Lacey Flint again and see how past events affected her. I fully thought I had the whole book figured out, and I was starting to feel disappointed, only for the plot twists to be thrown at me from an angle I definitely didn’t see coming. This is one of those books you will finish in record time, and it has an ending that will most likely surprise you!

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

After finishing my last January ARC, I’m going to take a break for a bit and read a few backlist titles… First up are thrillers The One by John Marrs and The Defence by Steve Cavanagh, both titles I’ve been wanting to read for a long time now. And if I’m in the mood for something different, How To Be Brave by Louise Beech is definitely up first! And I finally have a new TBR jar pick: What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler.


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WWW Wednesdays #249 – January 1st

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

Happy new decade! A new year means new reads, and I’m still working through my mountain of ARCs… Big Lies In A Small Town by Diane Chamberlain is up first; a title I’ve been looking forward to. I’m also starting the sequel Nothing To Lose by Victoria Selman so I have one less series to catch up with in 2020. Especially since the sequels seem to be coming out in record speed!

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. Black Summer by M.W. Craven (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW 
While I do think I loved the first book a tiny bit more (please don’t hit me!), Black Summer was without doubt a brilliant sequel and as soon as Tilly made her entrance there was no way on earth I was putting down my copy. Thankfully I was able to spend most of Christmas Day in the company of my kindle, lots of tea, a sleeping cat closeby and a pile of leftover chocolate, so my wish came true and I was able to reach that final page almost in one sitting. And what a read!

2. The Perfect Mother by Caroline Mitchell (5/5 stars) REVIEW 04/01
I’m a big fan of her books, and I always look forward to a new one… The Perfect Mother is without doubt a fantastic read that had me absorbed from the very first page and I literally finished it in less than a day. Definitely right at the top of favorite 2020 releases so far!

3. On The Bright Side by Hendrik Groen (4/5 stars) REVIEW 10/01
I loved my first meeting with main character Hendrik Groen a few months back, his character reminding me of all time favorite Ove. I’ve been looking forward to meet up with him again in the sequel, and while I thought On The Bright Side was a tiny bit slower and I think I liked the first book a tiny bit better, I still had a great time reading this book.

4. A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone (4,5/5 stars) BLOG TOUR REVIEW 09/01
Look out for my full review during my stop of the blog tour…

5. Blood For Blood by Victoria Selman (3,5/5 stars) REVIEW 10/01
I loved the third book of the series when I read it recently, and I decided to read the first two books of the series ASAP so I have one less series to catch up with in 2020. The first book is without doubt an entertaining ride, and while I think the third book shows just how much this series has grown over time I did love learning more about Ziba. And what a way to start the story with a bang!

6. Six Wicked Reasons by Jo Spain (?/5 stars) BLOG TOUR REVIEW 16/01
Look out for my full review during my stop of the blog tour…

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I’m probably reading the rest of my pending January ARCs first, so I can focus on reading mostly my own books during the rest of the month… The last three pending ARCs are Dark Mother Earth by Kristian Novak, The Home by Sarah Stovell and The Liar’s Daughter by Claire Allan. I also plan to finally read my latest TBR jar pick Like This For Ever by Sharon Bolton!


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