“Sunburn,” recently released in paperback, is a great summer read set in the sand and sun along the eastern seaside. Laura Lippman’s sizzling suspense story kicks off with Polly Costello at the beach with her husband and young daughter, Jani. The family seems to be enjoying a relaxing week, but Polly is contemplating much deeper things as she lounges at the water’s edge.
Polly is facing the reality of being tied to a marriage because of her young daughter and slips away one afternoon to think about what she really wants. Three years ago, Gregg and Polly had dated and gotten pregnant quickly; now the rush of the relationship and marriage is catching up with her.
Caught up in her second marriage with a second daughter, Polly is ready to confront her life and plan for a future she actually wants. The family’s summer signals the beginning of Polly’s vacation from her life.
Polly has always been winsome and cat-like, easily winning the affections of onlookers and men. She realizes she does not have to fulfill the role of mother and “wife to Gregg,” that’s been thrust upon her; she is free to share whatever parts of her backstory she wishes to share.
She also is free to go back in time and revisit the places that shaped her and draw her back into a life with her first husband. That time in her past set many things into motion that she would rather forget. But, the past is catching up with her, or perhaps, she is chasing her past to catch up with it. This is the summer Polly will finally connect her past with her current life and chart a course for her future.
Lippman shares a modern noir in her novel, “Sunburn,” inspired by James M. Cain’s masterpieces, “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” and “Mildred Pierce.” She weaves a sordid tale based on the past experiences of the book’s characters to determine the choices they will make, choices that will impact their future.