Sun Damage: A Novel

Image of Sun Damage: A Novel
Release Date: 
August 1, 2023
Harper Paperbacks
Reviewed by: 

How do you con a con man? If you read this book, you will learn how. But then again this is a novel, and the author’s methods may not work in real life.

“It was the English voice that caught our attention—the schoolgirl French, grappling with an order for a demi-carafe.” And thus begins a most interesting and hilarious tale of a young British traveler named Lulu. However, Lulu is not the central character of this book. Ali Lulu is.

You really need to read the book if you are going to figure out the Ali Lulu from the Lulu who just got off that airplane. You will find it interesting as you work through the rest of the story.

In the beginning, Sean, the con man, works Ali in manipulative ways. As a result, she becomes his understudy. He says, no promises, that he will teach her (Ali) all of his moves and methods of identifying con targets. He also tells her he will teach techniques to convince her target to give her money and property. His techniques work. Thus, in his corrupt criminal mind, he does not steal. Rather the target willingly gives what he is after.

The best way to accomplish the “con” is to have a partner. Ali is the partner. Interestingly though, Sean tends to steal from his partner as well as the target. You can never trust a criminal.

So the con job focusing on Lulu is going fine. All objectives are being met. Then something happens that is not in the playbook. Ali decides she needs to flee the scene. She absconds with a suitcase with 65,000 Euros in it. Her destination is a tiny village in Provence where the real Lulu is scheduled to be a cook for a week.

It turns out to be a crazy place. “I wasn’t sure what to feel here. The house seemed suspended, like holding its breath.” Nine guests, each with at least one skeleton in their closet, are scheduled to have a wonderful holiday. The nine guests include Clare, Elliot, Iris, Layla, Martha, Phil, Rebecca, Rob, and Roland.

Rob is an author. He is always banging on his notebook. Remember though, “People see what they want to see. . . . They don’t like ambiguity. If something doesn’t make sense they try to supply the missing link.”

Your job as the reader is to figure out who goes with whom, what each person does, and what the hidden secret is in each person’s background. The portion of the story at the retreat is interesting and hilarious. But who is Brigitte? And what part does she play?

Interesting as things are at the retreat house there is a town close by that has its own list of characters. And if there is a town with colorful characters then there are situations that are important to the story, too.

The author takes all these bits and pieces and weaves them together into a most enjoyable, relaxing, gumshoe story. You are going to play detective along the way, just as the author intends.