Book Review: Sunburn by Laura Lippman

Book Title and Author: Sunburn by Laura Lippman
Publication Date and Publisher: February 20, 2018 by William Morrow
Genre: Suspense, Crime Noir, Fiction
Pages: 384 pages
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Date Read: February 11, 2018 (e-arc)

4 Stars

Goodreads Synopsis: 

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 that begin to accumulate as autumn approaches, feeding the growing doubts they conceal.

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?

My Review:

I’ve been a fan of Laura Lippman’s books for years but Sunburn has especially been on my list of most anticipated reads this winter after I heard it was not her typical writing style, which it definitely isn’t but in a good way, but was crime noir along the lines of author James M. Cain, author of two of my favorite noir books of all time- The Postman Always Rings Twice and Mildred Pierce! I have to say Lippman did her predecessor proud with this sexy, captivating, intriguing book, and she certainly put her own trademark on noir with the way she, as usual, writes her whodunit with a cast of complicated, well-developed, but not always likable characters. I did not want to put this carefully plotted, twisty thriller down!

The story takes place in 1995 in Belleville, Delaware, a small town where Polly hopes she can hide for awhile after walking out on her husband Gregg and 3-year-old daughter Jani right in the middle of their family beach vacation. There she encounters Adam in the High-Ho Bar on her first day on the run. He’s good looking and instantly notices the sexy redhead with the badly sunburnt shoulders. They both end up staying in town working at the bar, but neither one really tells the other why they are there although they both clearly have an agenda. They quickly fall into a passionate love affair, but can it survive their secrets?

This slow burn of a novel is full of mysteries, blackmail, lies, betrayal, and murder! The pacing is a tad slow at times (just a few!) even for a slow-burning suspense, but I was caught up so much in the characters and the atmosphere, as well as Lippman’s superlative writing, that it didn’t bother me in the least!

Lippman has always excelled in her characterizations, and she has done it again here with characters that you love one minute and then hate and vice versa. Just when I thought I had a character figured out, I found out that I completely misjudged them! Her characters are very true to life, which is a great thing about her writing.

There are multiple POVs, which can sometimes get confusing, but I felt the author handled it well without confusing the reader. The book was rather cinematic for me with the noir atmosphere and the slow, dramatic buildup. Although it took place in 1995 (the year I graduated high school which I found amusing with some of the references), it seemed more suited to the late 1950s or 1960s. I could actually see the novel play out as a movie from one of those eras because of many of its qualities-the private eye, the sexy woman, murder, fraud, the steamy passion, and Polly reminded me of a dangerous, highly intelligent, redheaded Lana Turner.

Overall, this is a sexy page-turner that felt like a wicked read. The ending was wow! Utterly perfect! I did not see that coming at all! Lippman’s mystery (as usual for her!!) is quite different than your typical suspense or thriller, and I do recommend it! She’s a favorite author of mine for a reason, and I hope to see her writing more standalone novels in this crime noir style in the future!

**Thank you Edelweiss, William Morrow, and Laura Lippman for an ARC copy in exchange for my fair and honest review.**

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About the Author: Laura Lippman

Born: Atlanta, GA, The United States

Laura Lippman was a reporter for twenty years, including twelve years at The (Baltimore) Sun. She began writing novels while working fulltime and published seven books about “accidental PI” Tess Monaghan before leaving daily journalism in 2001. Her work has been awarded the Edgar ®, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Nero Wolfe, Gumshoe and Barry awards. She also has been nominated for other prizes in the crime fiction field, including the Hammett and the Macavity. She was the first-ever recipient of the Mayor’s Prize for Literary Excellence and the first genre writer recognized as Author of the Year by the Maryland Library Association.

Ms. Lippman grew up in Baltimore and attended city schools through ninth grade. After graduating from Wilde Lake High School in Columbia, Md., Ms. Lippman attended Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Her other newspaper jobs included the Waco Tribune-Herald and the San Antonio Light.

Ms. Lippman returned to Baltimore in 1989 and has lived there since. She is the daughter of Theo Lippman Jr., a Sun editorial writer who retired in 1995 but continues to freelance for several newspapers, and Madeline Mabry Lippman, a former Baltimore City school librarian. Her sister, Susan, is a local bookseller.




13 thoughts on “Book Review: Sunburn by Laura Lippman

    1. Thanks, Diana! It does have all those things and more! I do have a tendency to love slow-burning suspense…I love the build up and drama, lol. The pacing wasn’t too bad in the slow parts, but I think there could have been some things maybe edited out and that’s what made those parts slow. Or it was just the writing style.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Most of her books are a series…a female detective that I really enjoy, but she does have a few standalones, Wilde Lake being my favorite until probably this one (I’ve mainly read her Tess Monaghan series). This is quite different than anything she’s written, but I enjoyed it a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Your review is spot on regarding how I felt about this book! This was my first Laura Lippman and I enjoyed it a lot despite being frustrated at points because of the VERY drawn out slow pace. I agree about the ending, it was terrific!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great! I’m glad you agree with me on this one! I wasn’t sure if it was just me or not. Her books generally aren’t fast paced, so I think that might just be her style (her Tess Monaghan series is a female private eye and not suspense but more just crime), but this one seemed a little slower, and I had to wonder if it was because she branched into nior with this one. I’m glad you enjoyed it though with the exception of being frustrated! Yes! The ending made me really happy! It was bittersweet but perfect too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, yes, I love Lippman’s books, and when she takes a detour from the usual, I know I will be swept away by the moments. Savoring the moments makes a “slow burn” of a read so delightful. Great review! Thanks for sharing…I plan to download this one tomorrow!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes, she did an outstanding job stepping outside her norm! I was deeply impressed and hope she does it again. I do love a slow burn too! They are wonderful. Thank you! I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one, Laurel! 😊


  3. This sounds so intriguing! Even if the pacing is a little slow at times, you’ve made the writing sound phenomenal! And I love the sound of the characters- especially that you said they’re true to life. Fantastic review!


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