Thrillers in small towns

Thrillers set in small towns bring some scary thrills in several new books.

A historical thriller follows two women as their lives evolve around an artistic mural in “Big Lies in a Small Town” by Diane Chamberlain.

In 2018, Morgan is finishing up a three-year sentence in jail and looking to rebuilt her life again when a visitor makes her an incredible offer — restore an old post office mural in a small town and she will be paid handsomely and have expenses paid while working. The painting she unveils seems to be the work of a madwoman, and she is determined to figure out just what happened to the artist. Meanwhile, in 1940, Anna is determined to prove she has what it takes to be the artist for Treasury Department’s State Mural Competition in a small town from North Carolina. While she finds the townspeople aren’t exactly friendly to an outsider from New Jersey, let alone a woman who seemingly got the job over their own hand-picked artist, she is determined to do the job and do it well. She quickly begins to feel out of place, especially after she makes friends with a black man, but what she doesn’t know is how far people are willing to go to teach her a lesson. Told in alternating point-of-views between Morgan and Anna, the store weaves between the two to a climax that will bring them both together in unexpected ways.

“Big Lies in a Small Town” is published by St. Martin’s Press. It is $27.99.


Another historical tale is told in frozen Alaska in the 1940s in “How Quickly She Disappears” by Raymond Fleischmann.

Elisabeth is living in Alaska with her husband and daughter, after he takes up a position with the Office of Indian Affairs. She has never gotten over her twin sister, Jacqueline’s disappearance when she was 12, and sees haunting similarities between her sister and her daughter. When her husband is away, a German bush pilot shows up to deliver some packages and asks to stay with Elisabeth, since her home is the largest and able to take on borders. She agrees — and soon realizes what she invited in, as murder hits her small town. Alfred claims to be her friend, and even more, that he knows what happened to her sister and will reveal all to her if she does three things for him. And as Elisabeth follows his downward spiral into darkness, she may realize what it will cost her — but will it be too late?

A twisted thriller that will keep you guessing, this is a shocker of a story.

“How Quickly She Disappears” is published by Berkley. It is $26.


An outcast’s search for what happened to her sister is told in “The Prized Girl” by Amy K. Green.

Virginia is the black sheep for her father’s family — the reminder of her mother and the better life he has now with her stepmother and half-sister, Jenny. While Virginia tries to stay away as much as possible, and doesn’t have a close relationship with her half-sister, she is still understandably upset when Jenny is murdered at 13. A former pageant queen contestant, the police seem to think the guilt lies in a former stalker, but Virginia isn’t sure it’s as easy as that. As she attempts to dig into her sister’s life, all sorts of family secrets come tumbling out, including the truth about Jenny.

Told in alternating points-of-view between Virginia and Jenny, this is a story that readers will never see coming.

“The Prized Girl” is published by Dutton. It is $26.


A man who washes up on shore after an accident spins an out of control web in “Mr. Nobody” by Catherine Steadman.

No one can figure out where the man who washed up on a British beach with no ID and no memory came from. Neuropsychiastrist Dr. Emma Lewis is chosen to try to access and aid the patient by her peers. But Emma is alarmed to find the town he is recovering in is the same one she left 14 years ago, and that the patient seems to know one thing — a fact about her that no one else should know. What is she hiding and just who is he?

Emma’s story is drawn in taunt paragraphs that will keep readers guessing.

“Mr. Nobody” is published by Ballantine. It is $27.


Contact Amy Phelps at aphelps@newsandsentinel.com.


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