Dark Thrill reviews: Sun Damage by Sabine Durrant


There's something captivating about stories featuring Grifters and their exceptional observation skills. It's like watching a behavioral scientist use their knowledge for greed and evil. One of my all-time favorite movies is The Grifters, and I loved how Sabine Durrant quoted Jim Thompson in her novel Sun Damage. Remember, The Grifters is a story about a trio of conmen and -women that reaches the deepest level of toxicity, foreshadowing the direction of this novel set in the South of France. 

The book starts with one excellent chapter where we get to watch the set-up of the hustle through the protagonist, Ali's eyes, as she zeroes in on a distracted English girl, Lulu, alone in a hotel in the south of France. Before you know it, Ali and her partner Sean had their whole day of eating, sunning, and drinking, paid for by the unsuspecting girl. That would have been enough for Ali, but Sean keeps the scam going, and before they know it, they are on a boat with Lulu, and after a fight, the girl ends up dead. 

So begins this captivating novel, and then Sabine Durant veers into an unexpected side road; in a panic, after Lulu's death, Ali decides to take the summer job the girl was heading to, cooking for a well-to-do London family in a pastoral villa in the Provence. This part of the novel is just a joy and encapsulates the summer vacation spent by an English family in France perfectly. They are not snobs, but out of their depths, they don't really understand their surroundings and don't even notice that the girl cooking for them is not precisely a master chef, apart from Rob, a visiting writer. 

The novel is brimming with simmering tension that remains under boiling point for a long time while filling the room with the wonderful aromas of the French countryside. Of course, we all know this is an unsustainable situation, but when the tables turn, you will not see it coming. Sun Damage is the perfect book to read on a cold, rainy day.