Laura Lippman’s latest novel, Sunburn, sizzles evoking the long-ago classic noirish, pulp fiction of writers like James M. Cain, David Goodis, and other genre masters. It’s a world filled with deadly, duplicitous dames and the guys who fall foolishly hard for them.
Polly Costello, at least that’s her most recent name, arrives in the sleepy town of Belleville, Maryland. It’s a nothing town where zero happens; a seemingly perfect place to hide out for a while. Polly’s dangerously sexy and cold-blooded. Still, she may have been hurt more by those in her life than the pain she has inflicted on others.
Polly had a good childhood, but at seventeen years old she became pregnant by a guy in his early twenties. Her life spiraled downhill from there. They married, he became a crooked police officer in Baltimore. He also began drinking too much and beating her when she didn’t listen to him. After one too many beatings and a threat to kill her and their child, who has cerebral palsy, one night in bed while her husband was sleeping she stabbed him right through the heart.
The battered wife defense didn’t work in court and Polly spent a few years in jail, but received a pardon, along with a few other women, from the Governor. She soon found herself pregnant and married again to another jerk. Fed up with her bad luck, one day Polly decides to escape from her life. It helped that with the aid of a crooked insurance agent; she sued the hospital her first daughter was born at and won a two million dollar settlement. Her husband knows nothing about the money, and she will have to keep it that way until he is out of the way…divorce.
With the settlement money tied up, Polly’s working at a local dive in Belleville as a waitress. One day, in walks Adam Bosk. He claims he is a salesman, and his truck broke down. He has to wait for a part will be sticking around for a time. He’s good-looking, in a Ken doll sort of way, and she’s just plain hot. Neither plan on getting involved with the other or falling in love, but things happen even though no one seems to be who they are.
With a pissed off husband, and a crooked insurance man after her, plus a lot of sexual heat between Adam and our anti-heroine, the question becomes will it work out for Polly and will our lovers live happily ever after…or not. Sunburn has the definite feel and mood of a modern day version of The Postman Always Rings Twice, and Lippman builds it all up devising an ending that will not disappoint the reader.