Summary and book reviews of Sunburn by Laura Lippman

Sunburn

by Laura Lippman

Sunburn by Laura Lippman X
Sunburn by Laura Lippman
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2018, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2018, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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Book Summary

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.

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?

2

She steps out of room 5 into a bright, hot morning, unseasonably hot, just as the weekend at the beach had been, but at least there the breeze from the ocean took the edge off. People said how lucky it was, getting such a hot day in early June, when the water is too cold for anyone but the kids. School not even out yet, lines at the most popular restaurants were manageable. Lucky, people kept saying, as if to convince themselves. Lucky. So lucky.

Is there anything sadder than losers trying to convince themselves that they're fortunate? She used to be that way, but not anymore. She calls things the way they are, starting with herself.

When Gregg had started talking about a week at the beach, she had assumed a rental house in Rehoboth or Dewey. Maybe not on the beach proper, but at least on the east side of the highway.

Well, they had been close to the beach. But it was Fenwick, on the bayside, and it was a two-story cinder block with four small apartments that were ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Sunburn is deeply informed by classic noir novels and films, from the overall tone to specific plot points, but its setting in the 1990s make it feel like a perfectly blended mix of the old and the new. Noir offers a rich combination of dire circumstances and tortured characters, and Lippman has built on classic formulas, incorporating more contemporary storytelling techniques and creating in Polly a character who goes way beyond the femme fatale trope.   (Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

Full Review Members Only (511 words).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This is Lippman at her observant, fiercest best, a force to be reckoned with in crime fiction.

Library Journal
Starred Review. Modern noir at its best, it will delight old-movie lovers, satisfy suspense readers, and reward Lippman's legion of fans.

Booklist
Starred Review. Ingeniously constructed and extremely suspenseful, the novel keeps us guessing right up until its final moments. Lippman is a popular and dependable writer, and this homage to classic noir showcases a writer at the height of her powers.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. You can tell how much fun the author had updating the classic noir tropes, and it's contagious. Plotty, page-turning pleasure.

Author Blurb Lee Child, #1 New York Times bestselling author
Another extraordinary novel from Laura Lippman - full of just-one-more chapter, stay-up-late suspense, but packed too with nuance, subtlety, observation and humanity. Lippman is a natural storyteller at the height of her powers.

Reader Reviews

Sandi W.

Secrets abound...
Great book of secrets and suspense. Even though I don't like love stories, this romance was so much more. Two people, Polly and Adam, found each other when they were both very vulnerable. Each had their own secrets, each running from something, each ...   Read More

Michael Haughton

Sunburn by Laura Lippman
The writer started off in the first chapter real good as it the start was based off the theme of the book. The main character was keeping a keen eye in this Lady that had this "sunburn" which was the book's title. But somehow I was lost in ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

James M. Cain's Noir Novels

At one point in Sunburn, Polly recalls having gone to a film series back in Baltimore, a showing of several films grouped under the title "Raising Cain." At the time, she didn't know what that meant, but savvy readers will pick up on Lippman's reference to her fellow Baltimorean James M. Cain, author of influential noir novels, several of which were turned into even more memorable films. Several of these works, especially The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, and Mildred Pierce, directly influence Sunburn's language, tone, and even plot points. Perhaps after reading Sunburn, readers will be inspired to check out the classic films and have a "Raising Cain" film fest of their own!

Double IndemnityCain's Double Indemnity is ...

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