"It's the sunburned shoulders that get him. Pink, peeling.... Why would a redhead well into her thirties make such a rookie mistake? And why is she here, sitting on a barstool... in a town where strangers seldom stop on a Sunday evening?" Adam is pondering these questions at the start of Laura Lippman's Sunburn, as he gazes at a woman in a bar in Belleville, Del. He strikes up a conversation with her, and thus begins a summer that becomes too hot--and deadly--for Adam to handle.

Polly has left her husband and kid, for reasons that are initially unclear. She keeps personal details close to the vest, but so does Adam. This doesn't prevent them from falling into a scorching affair, but as their passion escalates, their respective secrets threaten to destroy them and claim collateral damage.

The inspiration from James M. Cain's masterpieces (The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, etc.) is evident in Lippman's prose. She takes the rhythms and tone of a 1930s hardboiled detective novel and gives them a contemporary spin. Fans of classic noir will recognize familiar tropes--the beautiful dame who can't be trusted but is nonetheless irresistible, the tough guy who believes he's her savior--and perhaps not be surprised by some turns of events. It's that familiarity with the genre, however, that partly makes Sunburn mesmerizing. Just like Adam being drawn to Polly, readers who suspect bad news still won't be able to stay away. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

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