Midnight At The Bright Ideas Book Store by Matthew J. Sullivan
Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the BookFrogs—the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves. But when Joey McGinty, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore’s back room, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions. Trinkets and books; the detritus of a lonely, uncared for man. But when Lydia flips through his books she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey’s suicide, she unearths a long buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop, and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia’s life long ago and, as she soon discovers, never completely left.
My Review: 4 stars
Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore is a mystery, a family drama and thriller all in one. I was immediately attracted to it from its cover and title. I try and hit most books that are about or take place in bookstores. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, The Little Paris Bookshop and Goodnight June are among a few of my favorites. This one definitely had me hooked from the start.
With a third person narration, we learn a lot about the characters, however I wanted more information about the main protagonist, Lydia. Although there was enough about her to enjoy the book, I did find myself wondering why she and her father had such a big break and why she left at eighteen. Maybe I missed something. There were a lot of trusts broken, secrets concealed and puzzles to unravel, which I appreciated as a reader.
There were two plot lines and two time periods running through the same narrative and thankfully they were not broken up by now/then. This author gave the reader the benefit of the doubt that we could figure it out on our own. The code breaking as a suicide note was particularly interesting to me as this character really lived and died within the books. His history was tragic at best and he too could’ve benefited being a little more fleshed out as well.
I must say there is a gruesome scene in the book that read right and was important to the storyline, however I know there are some readers who may not agree as they avoid all macabre scenes in literature. For me, it was absolutely necessary so we could fully understand why this event took such a toll on Lydia. I look forward to seeing what this author brings us next.
Quotes I liked:
I’ve begun to think of it as more graveyard than library. End of the line, you know. Where book-of-the-month club comes to die.”
-“I guess it just bugs me to be paying so little. Something’s wrong in the air, you know, when a book costs less than a bullet. Or a Coke.”
– “It wasn’t me. I mean I did it, I’m responsible, but I was just a teenager, so it wasn’t really me.”
-“Seriously, I like your whole book thing. Just having them around makes me feel smarter.”
-“She could hear Raj sniff next to her and then exhale a long gust, the kind intended to clear cobwebs from the soul, to pry out its nails.”