Laura Lippman


Mystery & Thriller


Date Reviewed:

January 14, 2020

ippman is a decorated mystery novelist, and Sunburn is a good example of her talents. Right from the beginning, the reader is introduced to the two main characters - Polly and Adam. They meet in a bar in Belleville Delaware, and Lippman immediately lets us know that each of these two characters is hiding something. Or, hiding a whole lot of somethings. As the story unfolds, Lippman gives answers to the initial questions, but each answer always introduces a new mystery. The result is an intriguing read where the pages turn quickly.

Polly is a woman who just abandoned her husband and her young daughter at the beach. She wrote a note, and just walked out on her marriage in the middle of a vacation. Polly needs to escape to execute a plan, but of course it is a long time before the reader learns what her scheme is. Polly is 30 years old, a redhead, and ruthless. She is capable of extreme violence, but we learn that later.

Adam is not accidentally in the High-Ho bar. He happens to be looking for Polly because he is a private detective. Someone from Polly's (not her real name, of course) past wants her found and then wants... what? Another mystery to be solved later.

Lippman does a terrific job with her characterization - even the minor characters (like the lesbian private detective who shows up for just one chapter) are fully fleshed out. They all are believable humans with foibles and ambitions and internal concerns. There aren't many characters in this novel, but each one that appears is fully drawn, no matter how brief their appearance.

Of course, the point of a mystery novel is to be presented with a mystery, and Lippman does a fine job of that with her slow reveals of what Adam's and Polly's goals truly are. Indeed, when Adam is completely explained, I continued to wonder if Lippman would conjure up a new scene that once again would recast him in a different light. Polly evolves throughout the novel, it wasn't clear to me until the very end what her scheme was. I don't want to say more for fear of revealing some plot details, but this book is a real page turner.