I remember sitting in the audience listening to Laura Lippman speak at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate some years ago whilst she was interviewed about how she gains inspiration for her novels. At the time, all I could think about was how one day I wanted to be an acclaimed writer just like her, utilising her skills as a journalist to create amazing, gripping reads that have often been written in the aftermath of real-life tragedies, either in America or further afield.
When I therefore found out that Laura Lippman had a new book out I jumped at the chance to grab myself a copy in order to see whether she could write yet another bestselling novel and she didn’t disappoint.
Don’t just take my word for it however; this is what Gillian Flynn said about the latest novel by this brilliant best-selling author.
“Every time Laura Lippman comes out with a new book, I get chills because I know I am back in the hands of the master. She is simply a brilliant novelist, an unflinching chronicler of life in America right now, and Sunburn is her dark, gleaming noir gem. Read it.”
Sunburn: A Standalone Thriller from Laura Lippman
Polly Costello, is a woman with a past, just like any other, but does every woman’s past involve death, destruction and deception?
Sitting in a bar in down and out Belleville, Delaware, Polly is trying to escape her mistakes; conjuring up a plan to get herself back on her feet far away from all she is running from.
Only that morning was she sat on a beach building sandcastles with her daughter while her husband looked on so why did she feel a need to run? What kind of woman would walk out on her life during a loving family holiday?
Surely nothing could be worse than a mother running out on her child?
Adam Bosk, the attractive man at the other end of the bar also has a secret, but his secret isn’t deadly, although deceit definitely plays its part. He is not there by chance, he has been sent to befriend the not-unattractive redhead with the sunburnt shoulders who is hiding from the world. It is his job to uncover her biggest deception so far, but does he believe his employer or will he too became taken in with this mysterious woman?
For Polly it was only meant to be a stop-off. Somewhere to hide out for a day or two before she head on up to Reno in the hope of being awarded a quickie divorce, so why does she decide to stay. What causes her to befriend the barmaid in the hope of gaining a job for the summer behind the bar? To begin with it is certainly not Adam, the stranger that seems to be lingering just a bit too long.
Anyone who picks this stand-alone novel can see instantly that any relationship between Polly and Adam is doomed from the very beginning – everyone knows that a relationship, friendship or otherwise – built on lies is never going to succeed so why do these two seem so drawn to one another? Is it anything more than a bit of sexual tension that will be resolved with a one-night stand?
Whatever the outcome, Polly and Adam suddenly seem very committed to this nondescript town that others simply bypass through on their way to the beach. They both gain jobs at the only bar around, the High-Ho in a bid to make some extra cash during the summer months.
Will Adam ever really uncover the truth though about this remarkable young woman that is seemingly unaffected by the loss of her family? Will they end up madly in love and live happily ever-after once all of the dishonesty and betrayal is out in the open?
This may be Laura Lippman first venture into hard-hitting noir as a writer but after reading this novel in a matter of hours I really hope it won’t be her last.
Declan Hughes, both a novelist and a playwright, stated in his own review of Sunburn for the Irish Times that “What is brilliant about Lippman’s achievement here is how she has reimagined the dark beauty and fever-dream erotic intensity of her noir touchstone and melded it with the uneasy will-you-won’t-you of the bourgeois mating ritual”.
He goes on to say that a noir tale of this nature is hard to sustain, “but Lippman handles it with masterly flair, delivering a thrilling succession of revelations and perfectly weighted twists in a fluent prose liberally salted with side-of-the-mouth wit and wisdom. What is often forgotten about Cain’s work is the exquisite strain of romantic yearning at its heart; that’s very much present here…”
For me, Mr Hughes has summed up the underlying theme wonderfully and probably explains why he is the published novelist whilst I am still a budding author yet to share any of my fictional prose with the world.
Set in 1995, Sunburn is a modern day crime noir novel inspired by James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity and Mildred Pierce that really does move this often dark genre into a modern age.
Have you read any of Laura Lippman’s novels? Which one has stood out for you?
Have you read any books by Laura Lippman that you would recommend to others?
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