When a bookshop patron commits suicide, his favorite store clerk must unravel the puzzle he left behind in this “intriguingly dark, twisty” (Kirkus Reviews) debut novel from an award-winning short story writer.
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. “Both charming and challenging” (Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review), Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is a “multi-generational tale of abandonment, desperation, and betrayal…inventive and intricately plotted” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).
Sullivan's solid first novel opens with 30-year-old bookseller Lydia Smith finding the corpse of Joseph Molina hanging from a beam in Denver's Bright Ideas Bookstore. The lonely 20-something ex-con spent countless hours wandering the shop, but Lydia can't fathom why he chose to commit suicide there or why he died with a photograph of Lydia's 10th birthday party in his pocket. Her confusion grows when she inherits Joey's belongings and discovers coded messages addressed to her hidden inside his books. Lydia's efforts to answer the questions surrounding Joey's death uncover clues to a cold case from her own past a household massacre that only Lydia survived. Flashbacks to Lydia's childhood told from her father's perspective help build the tension. Quirky characters and a keen sense of place distinguish this multigenerational tale of abandonment, desperation, and betrayal. Sullivan's writing occasionally calls too much attention to itself and a surfeit of coincidence strains credulity, but this inventive and intricately plotted mystery still largely satisfies.
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore
This was an excellent murder mystery! Not of the standard Agatha Christie style, but tweaked for Readers and Booklovers. Curious characters, great grammar usage, unexpected storyline, enjoyable wordsmithery, appropriately creepy. I’d recommend this to anyone with a reading or book fetish, especially if they’re lovers of the murder mystery genre.
Enough twists to make it a worthwhile read
I picked this up because the title intrigued me but I am glad I did. I enjoyed the storyline of Lydia trying to live her life with this incident from her childhood always over her head. There were enough twists and turns that the payoff is worth the trip. I found the characters to be very believable and while it dragged slightly overall pacing was fast.
This book is interesting, well paced and a super enthralling story with many moving parts. I loved it! There are unpredictable twists and turns and it's extremely hard to put down. Highly highly recommend!