Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan


image via goodreads


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 Joey McGinty, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore’s back 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.


This was 100% NOT what I was expecting! I thought this was going to be a light mystery centered around a bookstore and boy was I wrong.

Though books play a central part in this story (major bibliophile appeal here) there is so, SO much more going on on these pages. While hoping not to give much away, let’s just say the history that unfolded here was both parts fascinating and haunting.

I did not anticipate the gruesome backstory that popped up here, and therefore wasn’t prepared for it. Graphic violence is absolutely something I try to avoid with my thrillers, and I was not mentally prepared for a few scenes here which I personally had to skim over. So here is my trigger warning; if this is something you’re sensitive in nature to as well, you may want to gear up or skip it altogether.

This is a hard one to rate, while I didn’t love the violence and I did figure out the mystery quite early on, I was still glued to the pages and finished this one in less than 24 hours. There is something to be said about a book that you just can’t put down and this was one of those for me!

Thanks to Netgalley, the author and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

4 out of 5 stars.

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