I fancied a change – and Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore was certainly that.
Beautifully written, in a gritty and rather dark way, Matthew Sullivan’s debut had me hooked from the start.
His heroine, Lydia, is unique and engaging and I think the clever way she is written – the words seem so carefully chosen and remain somewhat blank and emotionless – perfectly fits with what she went through as a child when she would have been overloaded with feelings.
Have a read of the blurb and you’ll see what I mean:
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, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has inherited his meager worldly possessions. Trinkets and books; the detritus of a lonely 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.
At the start of a mystery I always enjoy wondering how the author is going to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together. Sometimes it’s straight forward, other times it’s a bit harder to find a fit. In this case, I certainly didn’t see at least one of them coming. At the time it did feel a little bit implausible but then strange things happen in real life so the more I thought about it, the more I thought ‘yeah, I suppose that could happen’.
It is certainly an engrossing story and it moves along at a pace which means you’ll be making dinner one handed because you don’t want to put it down.
Once it all came out, the ending did seem a little rushed. It was like the author thought: “Phew, mystery solved, time to go”. Although I guess once it’s done, it’s done – and it didn’t detract from how much I enjoyed the book.
My rating: 4.5 stars.
With thanks to Cornerstone Digital for the ARC in return for my honest opinion.