28 July 2018


  • this edition published Penguin Random House UK 2017
  • ISBN 9781785151439
  • 325 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

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.

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 meagre 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.

My take

When Lydia discovers Joey Molina has hanged himself in the upper reading room of the Bright Ideas Bookstore she also discovers that he has a photo of her in his pocket. It shows herself and two friends celebrating her birthday just days before the Hammerman struck. She struggles to understand how this photos has come into his possession and then she realises there is only one person he could have got it from.

Lydia has told her husband David only very bare details of her life before they met, but now, as she unravels the mystery of why Joey killed himself, the past comes flooding back.

Joey has left a series of messages for her cleverly coded into the books in the book shop.

A good read.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
Matthew Sullivan grew up in a family of eight spirited children in suburban Denver, Colorado. In addition to working for years at the Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver and at Brookline Booksmith in Boston, he has taught writing and literature at colleges in Boston, Idaho and Poland, and currently teaches writing, literature and film at Big Bend Community College in the high desert of Washington State. He is married to a librarian and has two children and a scruffy dog named Ernie.

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