Some people can’t walk past a bookstore without going inside. Well, I can’t pass by a book with books on the cover without picking it up. As soon as I laid my eyes on MIDNIGHT AT THE BRIGHT IDEAS BOOKSTORE, I knew I would soon be flipping its pages.
The novel centers around a downtown Denver bookstore called the Bright Ideas Bookstore. It’s a not-so-thinly-veiled homage to the Tattered Cover, a brilliant independent bookstore that happens to be right around the corner from my very own sister’s workplace, so I’m usually able to wrangle a visit to its shelves every time I visit her. Author Matthew Sullivan was a longtime bookseller at the Tattered Cover himself, so it’s easy to see where the inspiration for his debut novel comes from.
A bookstore actually creates the ideal atmosphere for a mystery. Answers hide in plain sight among the rows and rows of titles, and readers must put together the puzzle pieces of the who, what, when, and why of each query to find the answer. Yet bookseller Lydia Smith finds herself in a much more troubling puzzle upon discovering Joey, one of her favorite customers, dead among the Bright Ideas stacks.
Why would a seemingly happy, if eccentric, young man take his own life—and why would he have a photo from Lydia’s childhood in his pocket? The situation becomes even more perplexing when she learns that her mysterious friend left her a collection of oddly defaced books with random words precisely cut from their pages, which turn out to include clues for Lydia. The intention of Joey’s message, however, is further clouded by a haunting figure from Lydia’s past, and a tragic night 20 years earlier that changed her life forever.
As the story navigates Lydia’s childhood, leading up to the deadly night in question, only one thing remains clear in her search for answers: Lydia will need to face the nightmare of her past in order to get to the truth.
This novel is intricately plotted and filled with suspense, while at the same time utterly charming in character and setting. MIDNIGHT AT THE BRIGHT IDEAS BOOKSTORE offers a reading experience not unlike entering an actual bookstore: you’ll leave it with so much more than you expected.