Sunburn by Laura Lippman – review

Published by Faber and Faber

Publication date – 1 March 2018

Source – review copy

What kind of woman walks out on her family? Gregg knows. The kind of woman he picked up in a bar three years ago precisely because she had that kind of wildcat energy.

And now she’s vanished – at least from the life that he and his kid will live. We’ll follow her, to a new town, a new job, and a new friend, who thinks he has her figured.

So who is this woman who calls herself Polly? How many times has she disappeared before? And who are the shadowy figures so interested in her whereabouts?

Polly has walked out on her husband and three-year old daughter. What made her slip away? And why is it not the first time she has disappeared?

This is the third novel I’ve read this year that deals with women disappearing and I’m pleased to say it dealt with the topic in its own unique way.

The reader follows Polly to a new town, where she tries to create a new life, without her past becoming common knowledge. There is more to Polly than meets the eye. The nature of Polly’s character and background meant she kept herself at a distance from everyone. This is expressed to good effect in the prose. The present tense lends a remoteness to the story, though at times I felt a little too removed from the characters. However she is a very distinct character, one that could easily be imagined. This is also the case for the rest of the characters. I could envisage the town Polly moves to, her ex Gregg, Adam and all of the other characters. This is a novel I could see adapted for the screen.

None of the characters are particularly likeable. Polly is standoffish, for many reasons. Gregg comes across as a jerk, his mother as the one raised him that way. Adam is perhaps the character most easy to get on with, but even he is under Polly’s spell.

This book is set in the 1990s, when it was easier to disappear, when people couldn’t be traced with the click of a mouse, and when certain crimes were easier to get away with. The narrative felt like the reader took a step back in time, transported to a small American town.

There were parts of the novel where I felt my attention wane, in part I think due to my detachment from the characters. This is not a fast paced novel, not that the story warrants a fast pace. The story unfolds at a pace that is right for the narrative and wraps things up nicely.

An interesting novel. I’ll be looking out for Laura Lippman’s other novels.

About the author

Laura Lippman has been awarded every major prize in crime fiction. Since the publication of What the Dead Know, each of her hardcovers has hit the New York Times bestseller list. A recent recipient of the first-ever Mayor’s Prize, she lives in Baltimore, New Orleans and New York City with her family. To Find out more about Laura visit

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Susie | Novel Visits says:

    Great review! I felt much the same as you did about Sunburn, always wanting to continue but drifting from time to time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      Thank you. It’s interesting you had the same thoughts as me. I think she had to make Polly distanced, she just sometimes did too good a job 🙂


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