Published by Scribner in June 2017
Buy on Amazon, Buy on Barnes and Noble
When a bookshop patron commits suicide, his favorite store clerk must unravel the puzzle he left behind. 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 Molina, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore’s upper 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. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?
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.
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore was very different from my regular read, and to be honest, I was very worried I would end up DNF-ing it. Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, however, pleasantly surprised me with the slow developing mystery it held in its pages.
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore felt more like a general fiction novel. It didn’t have the feel of the mystery novels I’m used to reading. It felt a bit slower-paced than I’m used to. The mystery in Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is about Joey’s past and the cold case Lydia was involved in as a child. I thought it really picked up once Lydia solved Joey’s first puzzle, and all the characters started to be more developed. At that point, I was hooked and determined to find out what happened.
The story flips back and forth between the past and present and presented various points of views, particularly for the chapters set in the past. I really enjoyed the way Sullivan showed us what Lydia went through as a child and how that affected the people around her. It was a nice touch to go back to that moment and the mindset of Lydia as a child. I don’t think it would have had the same effect as it would have if we were simply told what happened with Lydia as an adult.
At the end of the story, however, I’m not sure I felt fully satisfied. I didn’t feel like all the loose ends were tied. I think I would have liked to learn more about what occurred between Lydia and her father that forced her to be so distant. I would have also liked to learn more about Raj, her childhood best friend. The main points were solved, but I still wanted a bit more.
As a side note, I really enjoyed the tidbits about working in a bookstore. I found a lot of joy in that, and it made me reminisce about my days as a bookseller.
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore was well written and a page-turning read once you get to know the characters. I quite enjoyed delving into a book that was a bit different from the style of books I’m used to reading. I’d highly recommend giving it a try.