Sunburn by Laura Lippman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Two strangers meet at a small town bar. One is a sexy and mysterious redhead. The other is a handsome stranger who says he’s just passing through. That’s either the set-up to a dirty joke or the start of a noir novel.
I’ve been meaning to read Laura Lippman for a while now, and this one was right up my alley. I don’t want to say too much about the story because I think it’s one of those that the less you know the better going in. Suffice it to say that there’s plenty of twists and turns with both the main characters, Polly and Adam, hiding their own secrets and spending a lot of time wondering if they can trust the other even as neither of them can resist the attraction they have.
The plot is exceedingly clever with a James Cain feel to it, and that’s obviously deliberate since he’s even referenced. It’s one of those books where even the reader feels unsure of their footing as you’re constantly reevaluating each of them as new revelations come out. It’s also interesting that there’s actually very little action within the book. Most of what would be considered ‘the exciting parts’ happens before the book begins, and the biggest event that occurs essentially takes place between chapters. We don’t even know the truth about that until the end. In fact, a great deal of this just takes place in the heads of the people as they think about their secrets and suspicions even as they go about the routines they fall into over the course of the story.
That’s where the character work shines, and Lippmann shows a real flair at walking the line of leaving a reader unsure of what to think of both of them. Is one the victim and one the villain? Are they both villains? Both victims? What’s great is that the more you learn the less sure you’ll be about making any judgments about either one of them.
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