Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan

No Series

Source: Netgalley

When a bookshop patron commits suicide, it’s his favorite store clerk who must unravel the puzzle he left behind in this fiendishly clever 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 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. 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. Bedazzling, addictive, and wildly clever, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is a heart-pounding mystery that perfectly captures the intellect and eccentricity of the bookstore milieu and will keep you guessing until the very last page.​

“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.”

This story is a whole bunch of things, and not what you'd expect when you first start reading it.

It starts almost cozy with the bookstore setting, but I found out soon this was definitely not to be considered a cozy mystery. By the end of the book the mystery vibe had gone over to the full-out thriller side, but without any looming danger for the main character. The book is about solving a crime to get the bigger picture of why a favorite patron offed himself, but it soon becomes to be personal for the main character when it ties into her own past and another unsolved crime. It's definitely a brain teaser on how this will all eventually come together and make sense.

I don't fully get why she hates her father so much as an adult - I know they were both running from a horrible situation, but still...Overall the characters are well done, if not sad and grim. The author doesn't shy away from tragedy and giving characters genuine emotional hurdles to deal with. Definitely not a happy-go-lucky book, especially at the end, but a well-written one.

The tragedy happens at the bookstore, but not much time is really spent inside it other than the main character dropping by for pep talk and plot movement with favorite co-workers and other patrons. Beloved books do play a part in an unconventional way, however, in a clever riddle that fully reveals itself eventually.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore didn't shy away from regret and tragedy, but there were uplifting themes such as forgiveness and reconciliation. They were just blended in with bitter secrets that have finally come home, which made it heavy reading. Don't go into this one expecting a quick and light mystery, for its anything but.

An honest review has been given after receiving from Netgalley

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