A compelling mystery in Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan
Published 2017, 328 pages
This book is a great read that sat unnoticed on my bookshelves for far too long (over 2 years!!). Sometimes the problem with buying the current shiny new book is that older ones keep getting pushed back and back and they're not shiny and new any longer, just a regular one the bookshelf so that you don't even see it anymore. I'm so glad I finally pulled it down.
Who doesn't love a well crafted mystery centered around books and a bookstore? The main character is Lydia, an employee who's found her home at the bookstore and, though she's basically a loner, she develops real connections with some of the regulars at the store. The BookFrogs are a ragtag group of down-on-their-luck people who have also found their home at the store - and Joey is a special favorite.
"All of this is pure Joey. It's like he was attempting to become his books. His deepest self. His final act. Joey's books were Joey's solace, so doing this, inserting himself so personally into them, may have been the only way he could profess his burdens to the world. To you, Lydia."
Early in the book Joey commits suicide in the bookstore. Lydia is devastated. Then she discovers Joey left her a box of books - and there's the mystery. Discovering the books had cutouts and figuring out the cryptic coded messages was clever and I loved trying to puzzle them out along with Lydia.
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is a smart book with good dialog, an intriguing current mystery of the suicide, but also the tragedy in Lydia's past that keeps hovering mysteriously around the edges of the story. I found myself liking Lydia and wanting to be her friend.
Joey is a character that we only learn about in flashbacks after his death, but he has a sad, compelling story. Boyfriend David didn't get much development though that's probably okay since his part was pretty superfluous. I think his main purpose was to illustrate how private and alone Lydia is, even in a relationship. Raj, a childhood friend is another main character, though again used mostly as a foil for Lydia's emotions. Her dad? Now that's a character that deserves some conversation. After you read the book, let me know what you think of that guy!
The book has a satsifying ending but one I didn't see coming, though maybe I should have. For me, this is the best kind of mystery - a strong but imperfect protagonist, an unusual mystery, not a police procedural though there is some direction from a detective, and so well written that the pages almost turn themselves. Definitely recommended reading and could be a fun book club discussion.
Reading Challenge: #PopSugar20 #16: book with a book on the cover Check out my progress on the Challenges tab at the top of the page.