Every so often, I go into a book completely blind. I avoid the synopsis, I don’t read any reviews and I just begin to read. Enter, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan, a book I had been seeing everywhere but knew absolutely nothing about.
The novel opens with Lydia, a bookstore clerk, closing the shop for the evening. When she hears rattling from the upper floors and goes to investigate, she is shocked to find a regular patron, Joey, swinging from the rafters with a photo of her as a child in his pocket. Following his death, Lydia finds out she has been left with all Joey’s wordly possessions, small trinkets and books, but she finds them defaced and they reveal hidden messages. As Lydia begins to untangle the messages and look into his suicide, she must look to her own violent childhood.
Marketed as a “heart-pounding mystery” I found this one a little tricky for me. Initially, I was drawn into the suicide and the author’s prose; I found it to be a little whimsical in a sense, kind of like a Kate Hamer mystery, but at the same time, I found it to be quite slow moving. In fact, I didn’t think it read much like a mystery; it was more like contemporary fiction with a suspenseful twist.
About 120 pages in, I began to feel more invested and curious to how Sullivan was going to pull all these pieces together. The narrative switches from all present to flashbacks to Lydia’s childhood and the event that happened and changed things. I did appreciate the back and forth but found myself more interested in the flashbacks than Lydia’s hunt in the present. Sullivan does a superb job of setting the stage and creating an emotional bond between his protagonist and the reader; I wanted to know more about Lydia. She felt like a friend.
I did enjoy the final twist in the end but found it slightly rushed, the plot seemed to be very dragged out and then BAM, in three chapters, we have the entire resolution. I wished there would have been more explanation.
Overall, if character heavy plots with mysterious elements are something you crave, I feel like Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore would be a read you’d enjoy. However, if you are after a fast-paced, heart-pounding mystery, I feel like this one would leave you disappointed. I gave this one a 3/5 stars.
Thanks to the author and publisher for the copy of this novel; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.
This one was another cjsreads for June; keep reading to see what Jessica and Chandra thought about Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore!
What Chandra Thought
Rule number one: never judge a book by it’s cover. I went in blind and for some reason thought this was a YA book. It’s decidedly NOT. We have a moderately paced present day mystery that travels back to unraveling a mystery of the past. We transverse back and forth between Lydia’s past and present and we get glimpses into other people’s perspectives while staying mainly grounded in Lydia’s. I LOVE deciphering puzzles and really enjoyed the author putting a puzzle (using books) within the story line. He really pulled me into Lydia’s story, from past to present and I enjoyed how it all married at the end. I could see where the story line was going as he slowly put each piece into place. Definitely not the story I was expecting when I first opened the book, but a story I thoroughly enjoyed, though somber that it was.
What Jessica Thought:
On her path to solve the mystery of Joey’s suicide she comes across deep buried memories from her own violent childhood. Her life is flipped upside down when her estranged father, an obsessive cop, and the Hammerman (a murderer from her past) all come back into her life.