Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore

Title:  Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore
Author:  Matthew Sullivan
Publication Information:  Scribner. 2017. 336 pages.
ISBN:  1501116843 / 978-1501116841

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Lydia heard the distant flap of paper wings as the first book fell from its shelf."

Favorite Quote:  "Lydia's skills as a bookseller came mainly, she believed, from her ability to listen. A raging case of bibliophilia certainly helped, as did limited financial needs, but it was her capacity to be politely trapped by others that really sealed her professional fate."

This book has the word bookstore in the title. I'm in! The description outlines a mystery, beginning with a suicide, a young woman hiding in plain sight, and a cast of eccentric characters such as the BookFrogs. This book is beginning to sound better and better. It's a debut novel. That adds to the excitement with its possibilities.

The story goes that bookseller Lydia Smith clearly has a secret in her past. She is estranged from her father and has no other family. She is in a committed relationship, but that has its boundaries and limits. She lives a quiet, contained life in the Bright Ideas Bookstore in Denver, Colorado. Her quiet is shattered when Joey Molina, a regular customer commits suicide in the store. The mystery deepens as he seems to have left clues for Lydia. Why did Joey kill himself? Who is Joey? What is his possible connection to Lydia? These are the questions at the heart of this mystery.

Slowly, the book peels back the layers of the past to reveal Lydia's secret and solves the mystery of Joey's connection to Lydia. Despite the cozy attributes of the book, the crime described is a graphic and violent one; so, reader, be aware. The ending, when it comes, reverts the mystery to seemingly prosaic issues. It's sad, but I expected something more unusual based on the rest of the book.

The one thing I do not invest in with this book are the characters and the relationships. Lydia and her father. Lydia and her childhood friendship. Lydia and her boyfriend David. Lydia and Joey. Perhaps, it all centers on the character of Lydia herself. Deeply emotionally scarred by a horrific childhood event, Lydia lives her life with those emotions still driving her life. Even though she has compartmentalized her childhood by never speaking of it, its impact shapes who she is. As a bookseller, she embodies the characteristics shared by avid readers (like me!). She is not an unlikable characters, even a sympathetic one. Yet, something keeps me from completely vesting in Lydia as a character.

I love the setting of the book. Even Lydia's childhood is spent in and around a library. The Bright Ideas Bookstore is described as many levels, with cozy places to read and bookish treasures to be found throughout. As the description of the book states, the store is home to the "lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves." It seems a haven, but, then again, most bookstores are a haven for me. This is one of a slowly vanishing breed that invites you in and invites you to linger. Perfect for the bibliophile in me.

I also love the fact that Joey's bequest to Lydia are books, with clues embedded in them. The books have been defaced (horror!) but with purpose to create a message. Also perfect for the bibliophile in me. Given an interesting plot and great descriptions, I look forward to reading more from Matthew Sullivan.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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