BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN by Diane Chamberlain


Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: January 14, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★★


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?


BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN is an absorbing story of two young artists from different eras, tied together by an abandoned mural meant for a post office wall in a small Southern city.

In 1940, New Jersey artist Anna Dale wins a national contest to paint a post office mural for a North Carolina town. Almost 80 years later, Morgan Christopher gets early release from prison with the condition that she restore the badly damaged mural so it will be hanging in a new museum on opening day.

Why was the mural abandoned and never installed? Why was troubled Morgan chosen to be the restorer? And what dark secrets are held beneath the grime of the old painting? I enjoyed the back and forth between time periods as intriguing and sometimes disturbing details were revealed. Very well written! This is the first book by Diane Chamberlain I’ve read, and I’m already a fan.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

DEATH IN THE FAMILY by Tessa Wegert


Series: Shana Merchant, #1
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: February 18, 2020
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★


A storm-struck island. A blood-soaked bed. A missing man. In this captivating mystery that’s perfect for fans of Knives Out, Senior Investigator Shana Merchant discovers that murder is a family affair.

Thirteen months ago, former NYPD detective Shana Merchant barely survived being abducted by a serial killer. Now hoping to leave grisly murder cases behind, she’s taken a job in her fiancé’s sleepy hometown in the Thousand Islands region of Upstate New York.

But as a nor’easter bears down on her new territory, Shana and fellow investigator Tim Wellington receive a call about a man missing on a private island. Shana and Tim travel to the isolated island owned by the wealthy Sinclair family to question the witnesses. They arrive to find blood on the scene and a house full of Sinclair family and friends on edge.

While Tim guesses they’re dealing with a runaway case, Shana is convinced that they have a murder on their hands. As the gale intensifies outside, she starts conducting interviews and discovers the Sinclairs and their guests are crawling with dark and dangerous secrets.

Trapped on the island by the raging storm with only Tim whose reliability is thrown into question, the increasingly restless suspects, and her own trauma-fueled flashbacks for company, Shana will have to trust the one person her abduction destroyed her faith in—herself. But time is ticking down, because if Shana’s right, a killer is in their midst and as the pressure mounts, so do the odds that they’ll strike again.


DEATH IN THE FAMILY is a Christie-inspired mystery set on a remote private island in Upstate New York. Two local detectives are called to investigate a missing persons case at the home of a wealthy family. They arrive to find a bed covered in bloody sheets and eight potential suspects — some more cooperative than others. As a terrible storm begins to rage, the detectives find themselves trapped on this small island, possibly with a killer on the loose.

The mystery was intriguing and solid, and I was kept wondering who among the eight may have played a part in the disappearance and why. I loved the stormy setting and the unsettling feeling that the characters were cut-off from the rest of the world. I liked that the lead investigator was a strong yet flawed female character, however the numerous references and flashbacks to her troubled past interrupted the story’s flow (though it seems to be setting up a series arc). Overall, this was an enjoyable, slow-burn, classic mystery.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

THE BODIES IN THE LIBRARY by Marty Wingate {Review}


Series: First Edition Library Mystery, #1
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: October 8, 2019
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★½


Hayley Burke’s fresh start as the curator of The First Edition Society’s library in Bath, England, is about to take a rotten turn in this charming new mystery series from USA Today bestselling author Marty Wingate.

Hayley Burke has landed a dream job. She is the new curator of Lady Georgiana Fowling’s First Edition library. The library is kept at Middlebank House, a lovely Georgian home in Bath, England. Hayley lives on the premises and works with the finicky Glynis Woolgar, Lady Fowling’s former secretary.

Mrs. Woolgar does not like Hayley’s ideas to modernize The First Edition Society and bring in fresh blood. And she is not even aware of the fact that Hayley does not know the first thing about the Golden Age of Mysteries. Hayley is faking it till she makes it, and one of her plans to breathe new life into the Society is actually taking flight–an Agatha Christie fan fiction writers group is paying dues to meet up at Middlebank House.

But when one of the group is found dead in the venerable stacks of the library, Hayley has to catch the killer to save the Society and her new job.


Hayley Burke is the new curator of The First Edition Society, a library dedicated to first editions from the Golden Age of Mysteries. How she got the job, I’m not sure, because she’s never read a mystery, which made me laugh. It’s a sweet position she doesn’t want to lose, but when a member of an Agatha Christie fanfic group is murdered at the library, Hayley’s future there is threatened — she allowed them in, after all.

I loved the setting of Bath, England, and the gorgeous Georgian home that housed the precious books. The murder mystery is definitely Christie-inspired, with many quirky suspects. With her job at stake, as well as the survival of the society itself, I can understand why Hayley would want to launch her own investigation, or at least give the police a gently nudge here and there. I can’t resist a cozy mystery revolving around books, and this one was a quick, fun read. Now I need to catch up on my Christie.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

THE VANISHED BRIDE by Bella Ellis {Review}


Series: A Brontë Sisters Mystery, #1
Publisher: Berkley Books
Release Date: September 10, 2019
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★½


Before they became legendary writers, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, and Anne Brontë were detectors in this charming historical mystery…

Yorkshire, 1845. A young wife and mother has gone missing from her home, leaving behind two small children and a large pool of blood. Just a few miles away, a humble parson’s daughters–the Brontë sisters–learn of the crime. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are horrified and intrigued by the mysterious disappearance.

These three creative, energetic, and resourceful women quickly realize that they have all the skills required to make for excellent “lady detectors.” Not yet published novelists, they have well-honed imaginations and are expert readers. And, as Charlotte remarks, “detecting is reading between the lines–it’s seeing what is not there.”

As they investigate, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are confronted with a society that believes a woman’s place is in the home, not scouring the countryside looking for clues. But nothing will stop the sisters from discovering what happened to the vanished bride, even as they find their own lives are in great peril…


THE VANISHED BRIDE is a unique historical mystery that casts the famous Brontë sisters as amateur sleuths who set out to solve a local missing persons case. It’s 1845, and Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are once again living at home with their father Patrick and brother Branwell, before they became published authors. The sisters are struggling to find their place in the world as unmarried women who would prefer to set their own course in life. When they hear a young wife has disappeared under gruesome circumstances, the Brontës become “lady detectors” and use their smarts & daring to find out what happened.

I enjoyed this book very much! Not only was I intrigued by the twisty mystery, I absolutely loved being able to live in the world of the Brontës for a little while. From what I’ve previously learned about them, I think the author did a fantastic job capturing the sisters’ personalities, conflicts, and closeness to one another. Though the mystery was fictional, it had many elements that would have influenced this Charlotte to write Jane Eyre. THE VANISHED BRIDE is a must read for Brontë fans — intriguing, well-written, and great fun.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

THE WOLF WANTS IN by Laura McHugh {Review}


Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Release Date: August 6, 2019
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★¾


In a small town ravaged by the opioid crisis, a woman confronts a dark secret about her brother’s shocking death–a gripping novel of suspense for fans of Sharp Objects and S-Town.

Sadie Keller is determined to find out how her brother died, even if no one else thinks it’s worth investigating. Untimely deaths are all too common in rural Blackwater, Kansas, where crime and overdoses are on the rise, and the small-town police force is consumed with the recent discovery of a child’s skull in the woods. Sadie is on her own, delving into the dark corners of a life her brother kept hidden and unearthing more questions than answers.

Eighteen-year-old Henley Pettit knows more than she’d like to about the seedy side of Blackwater, and she’s desperate to escape before she’s irreparably entangled in her family’s crimes. She dreams of disappearing and leaving her old life behind, but shedding the past is never easy, and getting out of town will be far more dangerous than she ever imagined.

As more bones are found in the woods, time is running out for Sadie to uncover the truth and for Henley to make her escape. Both women are torn between family loyalties and the weight of the secrets they carry, knowing full well that while some secrets are hard to live with, others will get you killed.

Like Laura McHugh’s previous award-winning thrillers, The Weight of Blood and Arrowood, The Wolf Wants In is an atmospheric, beautifully told novel that barrels toward a twisting, chilling end and keeps us turning the page to find out how these small-town secrets will unravel–and who will survive.


THE WOLF WANTS IN is a quiet mystery/family drama set in a small Kansas town. Sadie Keller believes her brother has died under suspicious circumstances and wants answers. At the same time police are investigating the discovery of a child’s skull found in the woods. Henley Pettit is just looking for a way out of Blackwater, a town of people plagued by the opioid epidemic, including her mother.

I very much enjoy Laura McHugh’s writing style and the way she crafts her atmospheric Midwestern settings. I don’t think the mystery & suspense elements in this book were as strong as in her previous novels (The Weight of Blood & Arrowood). There weren’t a lot of clues presented until the end, and I was left a bit confused about what happened & why. However, this character-driven book presents a realistic look at how poverty and opioid abuse affects people in small town America.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.