Thursday, April 29, 2021

Sunburn by Laura Lippman

Sunburn by Laura Lippman
Read by Susan Bennett
Published February 2018 by HarperCollins Publishers
Source: audiobook checked out from the library
Publisher's Summary:
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.

My Thoughts: 
This is my fifth book by Laura Lippman and, as I go back through the blog to see what I've read, I find that I've mostly been a fan. Which seemed a little odd to be because I could only remember two of those books. This one I'm likely to remember; my book club read it this month and we spent a lot of time talking about it. 

Here's a thing I learned from all of that talking about books - it can absolutely change your impression of the book. More than once I've found I had a greater appreciation of a book after my book club talked about it and I had a chance to think about it in a different way. This book wasn't one of those times. 

My initial impressions:
  • I really enjoyed the relationship between Polly and Adam - two people who couldn't keep their hands off each other, despite the secrets they were both keeping. Also two people who began to resent the other one for having that hold on them - Polly needing her time in the morning before Adam woke up, Adam wishing for the ability to just take off on a long time as he was used to doing. 
  • I have never heard of James Cain, the author, but I have seen the movie adaptations of his books which are all film noir staples. Having seen those, I very much got that same impression from this book - the secrets, the small set of the action, the flawed characters, the cat-and-mouse game play. 
  • I liked the way Lippman slowly reveled Polly's past to explain her motives, her weakness, and a dark side present-day Polly only hints at. 
  • The secondary characters were mostly well done and given a depth secondary characters don't always get.
  • Except when they weren't...there definitely some caricatures and sometimes it felt like these characters got too much page time and took away from the storyline for me. 
  • I had mixed feelings about a couple of pretty major things - one is the big revel about Polly and the other has to do with the ending but since I really enjoyed the book, I was ok with those things. 
My impressions after book club:
  •  The book really does feel like it has two parts - before a death and after - and the second part is not as strong as the first part. 
  • Those major things that I had mixed feelings about? I'm less inclined to overlook them. 
  • Polly's motivation for everything she has done just doesn't feel believable the more I think about it. I'd explain more but that would give away too much. 
If you look at reviews of this book, you're likely to find them very divided. Lippman's fans mostly really liked this book. Others didn't like it at all. I find myself somewhere in the middle and, maybe wishing I hadn't discussed it so much so that I was left with a better impression of this one. 


  1. I'm generally a Lippman fan, too, and I remember liking the before part better than the after. Still gave this 4.5 stars... wish I could remember the particulars better though.

  2. I don't remember much about this book but I remember liking the first half but not the second, quite as much.