Title: Sunburn by Laura Lippman
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss
New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman returns with a superb novel of psychological suspense about a pair of lovers with the best intentions and the worst luck: two people locked in a passionate yet uncompromising game of cat and mouse. But instead of rules, this game has dark secrets, forbidden desires, inevitable betrayals—and cold-blooded murder.
One is playing a long game. But which one?
They meet at a local tavern in the small town of Belleville, Delaware. Polly is set on heading west. Adam says he’s also passing through. Yet she stays and he stays—drawn to this mysterious redhead whose quiet stillness both unnerves and excites him. Over the course of a punishing summer, Polly and Adam abandon themselves to a steamy, inexorable affair. Still, each holds something back from the other—dangerous, even lethal, secrets.
Then someone dies. Was it an accident, or part of a plan? By now, Adam and Polly are so ensnared in each other’s lives and lies that neither one knows how to get away—or even if they want to. Is their love strong enough to withstand the truth, or will it ultimately destroy them?
Something—or someone—has to give.
Which one will it be?
Inspired by James M. Cain’s masterpieces The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, and Mildred Pierce, Sunburn is a tantalizing modern noir from the incomparable Laura Lippman.
A very atmospheric novel, Sunburn by Laura Lippman is an intriguing mystery that unfolds at a leisurely pace.
After walking out on her husband, Polly Costello meets Adam Bosk at the High-Ho diner/bar in Belleville, DE. Neither is planning on staying in town for long, but after meeting one another, they each decide to town for the time being. Polly is hired as a waitress at the High-Ho but she only plans on staying until she builds up a nest egg before moving on. Adam is hired temporarily as a cook at the High-Ho and he continues trying to inveigle his way into Polly’s life. Neither of them are forthcoming about how or why they ended up in Belleville and in fact, Adam knows more about Polly than he lets on. Over the next several months, Adam and Polly’s relationship deepens beyond co-workers but will Polly’s very colorful past prevent them from building a future together?
Polly is charming and sexy but she is also quite reserved and maintains an emotional distance from everyone in her life. She easily walks away from her present life and she does not offer anyone an explanation for her actions. She is somewhat mysterious and less than forthcoming with the new people she meets in Belleville but she is surprisingly popular with the customers at the High-Ho. Polly does not make female friends which makes for a distant but mostly cordial relationship with Cath, who also works at the High-Ho.
Adam has good reasons for cozying up to Polly and he remains quite vague when anyone asks him personal questions about his life. He is quite fascinated with Polly but he knows he should not become too close to her. Before long, Adam’s interest in her has crossed from professional to romantic, but he convinces himself he can maintain his objectivity. But is Adam fooling himself with his assertions that his feelings for her won’t interfere with his real reasons for being in Belleville?
Sunburn is a character-driven, multi-layered novel. Polly definitely has an interesting back story, but she is sometimes hard to like or feel sympathetic towards when the truth about her past comes to light. Adam is an experienced professional but he greatly underestimates how deeply Polly will affect him. Laura Lippman’s slow parceling of information about Polly’s past culminates with a dramatic confrontation. The novel comes to an unexpected conclusion that is rather poignant. Film buffs will especially appreciate the nod to some classic noir movies from the 40s and 50s.