Review: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore Book Cover Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore
Matthew Sullivan
June 13, 2017
Net Galley

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.

This is a hard one for me to review. I neither loved nor hated the book, it was just kind of “meh” for me.

I tend to automatically add any book that takes place in a bookstore or library to my TBR, because as a book lover, I am drawn to books that talk about books. And there were plenty of books in this story. Lydia works as a bookseller and her father was a librarian. She grew up reading and spending all her time at the library while her father worked. No matter what happened in her life, books were her constant.

Books were also the tie between Joey and Lydia, as well as between Joey and some of the other characters. I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone, so I won’t go into detail on his connections with other characters in the book.

The story jumped between the past and the present a lot, and also jumps between Lydia’s POV and her father’s. This provides background and motivation. There are also characters from the past who pop back up in the present in weird ways.

I think that my biggest issue with this story is that I really didn’t understand some of Lydia’s motivations. I understood why she wanted to find out more about Joey, and her search for answers there. I understood why she didn’t readily share her past with people. I did not understand why her relationship with her father became so distant or why she reacted the way she did when her boyfriend admitted to knowing about her past.

Along the same lines, I didn’t understand Tomas’s complete change of character from before the incident to after. I think it was supposed to create tension, doubt, and suspense, but it really didn’t for me. And I don’t think this was ever really adequately explained.

There are a few other character motivations that I am completely baffled by, but I can’t share them here without spoiling the plot.

I did really like the characters of Plath and Lyle. I felt that they were loyal, caring characters who really supported the main characters. I also liked what little was shared about David, and would really have liked to see his character developed more. I think the plot could, and should, have gone in a completely different direction for his character. And Joey is probably one of the best characters in the book; his motivations became very clear the more we learned.

While I liked the way that the main storyline drew together and was resolved. I was bothered and confused by the ending itself. It felt kind of creepy, and I’m not sure if that was the way the author intended it or not.

All in all, this isn’t a bad book, it had some really good elements and nice character development for some of the characters, it just really wasn’t right for me.

Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book through NetGalley and the publisher {Scribner} in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.