About The Book
They meet at a local tavern in the small town of Belleville, Delaware. Polly is set on heading west. Adam says he’s also passing through.
Yet she stays and he stays—drawn to this mysterious redhead whose quiet stillness both unnerves and excites him. Over the course of a punishing summer, Polly and Adam abandon themselves to a steamy, inexorable affair. Still, each holds something back from the other—dangerous, even lethal, secrets that begin to accumulate as autumn approaches, feeding the growing doubts they conceal.
Then someone dies. Was it an accident, or part of a plan? By now, Adam and Polly are so ensnared in each other’s lives and lies that neither one knows how to get away—or even if they want to. Is their love strong enough to withstand the truth, or will it ultimately destroy them?
Something—or someone—has to give.
Which one will it be?
I bought this book a while ago because I was going to the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate and Laura Lippman was going to be there, but, as usual, my to read list took over and I didn’t get round to it. Fast forward to a week or so ago and I was in Waterstones in Newcastle Upon Tyne and I overheard a bookseller waxing lyrical to a customer about how brilliant Sunburn is and he spoke so effusively about it that I bumped it to the top of my list. I was so pleased that I did queue jump it as Sunburn is one of those novels that gets under your skin with its general sense of unease, characters who you’re kind of supposed to hate but actually really like and a plot that is simple yet devastating.
Adam and Polly meet in a restaurant/bar in Bellevue, Delaware which, according to the sign that greats you on the road in is, ‘one of the best small towns in America’. It is June 1995 and this meeting isn’t quite as random a thing as Polly believes it to be, Adam has been sent to watch her, but we don’t know why. She is recently arrived there, having walked away from her old life and plans to stay for a little while and move on. However, meeting Adam changes this and over a hot summer they will circle one another, come together and by the end of it nothing will be quite the same.
These two characters are so well written that I was fully engrossed within pages. Polly is cool and distant and she uses her beauty to disarm and charm. Adam has been warned about her, he knows what she is capable of, knows that there is a trail of men she has wronged, and yet, he is different. Isn’t he? I loved, loved, loved the push and pull of Adam and Polly, their secrets and the cards that they hold close to their chests. We are kept in the dark for much of the novel with tantalising hints, we know Adam has been employed to find Polly and to find out her secrets, but why? What exactly has she done? And is Adam all that he seems? What secrets is he keeping?
This is a gorgeous noir book with stunning and evocative writing that kept me turning the pages. It did slow a little for me around three-quarters of the way through but picked up again at the very end. It is a shame that the momentum was lost because this was a solid 5 star read for me until that point. That being said, it is a wonderful read which is driven by fantastic characters whose relationship with one another is complicated, dark and yet beautiful. These two flawed people take us through a tightly constructed plot which kept me on my toes and made this is a compelling read.
The plot being what it is makes this a short and sweet review as you really need to let it unravel for yourself. Please avoid spoilery reviews if you can (actually, this is good advice in general) because this is a book best read on a day when you can be totally uninterrupted and allow yourself to be fully immersed in the mid 1990s world of Polly and Adam.
Sunburn is published by Faber & Faber and can be bought here.