Midnight at the Bright Ideas bookstore A novel

Matthew Sullivan, 1970-

Book - 2017

"When a bookshop patron commits suicide, his favorite store clerk 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 ...Molina, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore's upper 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."--

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Subjects
Genres
Mystery fiction
Published
New York : Scribner 2017.
Edition
First Scribner hardcover edition
Language
English
Physical Description
328 pages ; 24 cm
ISBN
9781501116841
1501116843
Main Author
Matthew Sullivan, 1970- (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

As Denver's Bright Ideas Bookstore is closing for the day, bookseller Lydia Smith finds Joey Molina, a favorite customer, hanging in the third-floor history section with a photo of Lydia as a child in his pocket. The narrative has two avenues to explore: Joey's past and motivation for suicide, and Lydia's childhood trauma caused by a still-unsolved crime. (Twenty years earlier, when she was 10 and on a sleepover at a friend's house, Lydia was the sole survivor when a killer who became known as Hammerman bludgeoned to death Lydia's friend and her friend's parents.) Lydia discovers that Joey left an intricate set of clues for her in books, which have always provided her comfort and solace; her librarian father raised her alone after her mother died in childbirth, moving her away and changing their last name after the crime. Lydia finds that answers go back years and swirl around her best childhood friend, Raj Patel, whose parents run a combination gas station and donut shop. This quirky debut novel will have particular appeal for puzzle solvers and booklovers. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

DEBUT Sullivan, a former bookseller, sets his first novel at a fictional independent bookstore in Denver. Lydia loves to recommend titles and is patient with the sometimes difficult regulars who frequent the store. When one of her favorites, a disturbed young man named Joey, commits suicide during her closing shift, she is devastated; she is also confused by the personal library he left her. Lydia, herself a survivor of a violent childhood crime, has spent her life running from her past. As she tracks down the clues Joey left for her in his books, she discovers a connection between her nightmarish attack years before and Joey's troubled youth. Not only must she face the secrets she has buried, but the murderer who almost killed her is still out there. VERDICT Though darker than other beloved novels set in bookstores, this story will appeal to fans of Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and Katarina Bivald's The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. Mystery readers will also appreciate the clever connections between the characters and the crimes. [See Prepub Alert, 1/3/17.]—Catherine Lantz, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago Lib. Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Sullivan's solid first novel opens with 30-year-old bookseller Lydia Smith finding the corpse of Joseph Molina hanging from a beam in Denver's Bright Ideas Bookstore. The lonely 20-something ex-con spent countless hours wandering the shop, but Lydia can't fathom why he chose to commit suicide there—or why he died with a photograph of Lydia's 10th birthday party in his pocket. Her confusion grows when she inherits Joey's belongings and discovers coded messages addressed to her hidden inside his books. Lydia's efforts to answer the questions surrounding Joey's death uncover clues to a cold case from her own past—a household massacre that only Lydia survived. Flashbacks to Lydia's childhood told from her father's perspective help build the tension. Quirky characters and a keen sense of place distinguish this multigenerational tale of abandonment, desperation, and betrayal. Sullivan's writing occasionally calls too much attention to itself and a surfeit of coincidence strains credulity, but this inventive and intricately plotted mystery still largely satisfies. Agent: Kirby Kim, Janklow & Nesbit. (June) Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Lydia Smith, a clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, must unravel a puzzle left behind by a patron who has committed suicide, an effort that is complicated by memories of her violent childhood.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"When a bookshop patron commits suicide, his favorite store clerk 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 Molina, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore's upper 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 whenLydia 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."--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

A first novel by an award-winning short story writer follows the efforts of a bookstore clerk to unravel a puzzle left behind by a patron who has committed suicide, an effort that is complicated by memories of the clerk's violent childhood.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

Goodreads Debut Author of the Month and an Indie Next Pick!'sullivan's debut is a page-turner featuring a heroine bookseller who solves a cold case with clues from books'what is not to love?' 'Nina George, author of The Little French Bistro, and the New York Times bestselling The Little Paris BookshopWhen a bookshop patron commits suicide, his favorite store clerk 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 Molina, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore's upper 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.'