Friday, 18 August 2017

Book Review: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan

Title: Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore

Author: Matthew J. Sullivan

Pages: 336

Publication: 24th August 2017 by William Heinemanm

Reason for Reading: This was one of my anticipated releases of the rest of 2017 and then I was lucky enough to be approved for it on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads Synopsis: When a bookshop patron commits suicide, it’s his favourite store clerk who must unravel the puzzle he left behind in this fiendishly clever debut novel.

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. 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.


Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore grabbed me right from the start. Joey’s suicide is dramatic and sparks enough curiosity to keep on reading, and suddenly I found myself utterly engrossed - it was very easy to get lost in Sullivan’s writing and the story.

I first heard about this book as a mystery/thriller set in a bookstore, which sounded right up my alley. Whilst it’s not necessarily the description I would give, the story certainly has elements of a mystery/thriller, for example the questions surrounding Joey’s suicide and also the traumatic event in Lydia’s past (highlight for a potential spoiler: which reminded of Dark Places by Gillian Flynn). I will warn you: some of this is very gory, with explicit descriptions of violence, so beware!

Despite the mystery/thriller elements in this book, I would say that it is definitely more in the literary fiction camp. It’s much more focused on family and the complicated relationships that exist between family members, as well as trauma. A relationship that is explored particularly extensively is that between Lydia and her father. I loved how we got the perspective of her dad telling the story of their past and to begin with I think I actually preferred reading this rather than the storyline of Joey’s suicide in the present.

The backdrop of the bookstore and the clues that Joey left behind in books were really enjoyable to read about - it was quite fun (and difficult) to work out Joey’s clues and made me feel much more involved and invested in the book. I loved how books were portrayed as such a central and precious part of life for the characters because it is such a familiar feeling. Also, a special shoutout to Plath who sounds exactly like my best friend’s mum, who also happens to be a bookseller.

Overall, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore was heartbreaking and addictive. The writing sucked me in and I got lost in a story well worth reading and in the end I awarded it 4 out of 5 stars. I haven’t seen as much hype surrounding this book’s release in the UK, but I heartily recommend that you pick it up when it comes out next week, on Thursday 24th August!