Monday, September 11, 2017

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

AuthorMatthew Sullivan
Publisher: Scribner
Date of publication: June 2017

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 youngest BookFrog Joey Molina kills himself in the bookstore’s upper level, 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 pages 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?

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore was not what I was expecting.  For the most part, I enjoyed the story.  However, it ended up being a mystery that seemed to take forever to get to the conclusion.  In the story, while Lydia is working at a bookstore one evening, a favorite customer hangs himself among the bookshelves in the store.  In his pocket is a photo of her with two of her childhood friends.  Intrigued and a bit freaked out, Lydia sets off to figure out just who Joey was and why he had her picture.

 I'm not sure I really liked Lydia at first.  She was rather dull and indifferent to most things. But as I got to know her past, I could see how her childhood had shaped her adult life.  Then, I mostly felt sorry for her.  While I ultimately liked the story, it really dragged in parts.  There was a missed opportunity with the "clues" that Joey left behind.  They seemed to be a big deal, but Lydia kept forgetting to hunt them down and use them.  I found this frustrating and wish they were a bigger part of the story.  They could have been left out and nothing really would have changed.  My other issue was the ending.  It was wrapped up a bit too neatly and conveniently for me, leaving me with a reveal that wasn't too surprising. 

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