Sunburn leaves a raspy aftertaste.
It’s like a cigarette on a hot, muggy night, sitting on a rickety lawn chair in front of a run-down motel in a town where no one knows you.
The surroundings are low-class, but the scene is a peaceful break from the bustle of real life.
Sunburn is a noirish look at a woman who could be either a black widow or a victim many times over. In life, the truth is usually somewhere in between. In the book…well, you’ll just have to read to find out.
Noir is defined as being steeped in cynicism and mortal ambiguity. All characters fit the bill. Polly is new in town, showing up with a mysterious past. Despite intending to pass through, she finds a haven in small town Belleville and decides to stay for a while.
Adam is also new in town, with an equally mysterious past. Although he was warned against falling for Polly, he canâ€™t resist her, just as she had expected. They begin a passionate affair, inexplicably and inexorably drawn to each other.
But Polly is cold, calculating. Is his love requited? Or is she using him to accomplish another of her machiavellian schemes?
“It’s impossible to imagine her in thrall to anything, anyone. She calls the shots even while pretending not to. Even in motherhood, she has shown this steely control.”
â€• Laura Lippman, Sunburn
Sunburn is wistful. Quiet and slow with layers of deception and heartache falling atop one another. Itâ€™s sultry. Heavy with secrets.
Lippman wisely sets the book in 1995, before cell phones were widespread and people could be found in a moment using gps coordinates and a digital footprint. It makes it easier for Polly to disappear. Easier to hide her sordid past from the townspeople.
Motives are unclear and murder has no perpetrator until the end. An ending I wish I could talk about because gosh, it’s just soâ€¦