Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan #BookReview #BlogTour

What do you do when the life you’ve carefully built for yourself comes apart?

Lydia Smith lives a quiet life, spent in the company of her colleagues and customers at the bookstore where she works. But when Joey Molina, a young and mysterious regular, hangs himself in the bookstore and leaves Lydia secret messages hidden in the pages of his books, her world starts to unravel.

Why did Joey do it?

What did he know?

And what does it have to do with Lydia?

It's my pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan today. Many thanks to the author and Becky McCarthy from Penguin Books for inviting me and for my copy of the novel.
What book lover can resist a novel set in a bookstore?! I've been looking forward to reading Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore for some time now; it turned out to be a very different story to the one I was expecting but I thoroughly enjoyed this captivating though rather melancholy tale.
The title gives us the opening scene of the book as bookstore employee, Lydia Smith prepares for closing time she hears some mysterious noises upstairs. The beginning of the story is quite chilling as she investigates where the noises could be coming from. Many of us will have heard something strange in the night and though our surroundings may be familiar in the daytime, at night everything takes on a different, more unsettling feel... There's usually a perfectly reasonable explanation for the noise but this time the cause is a tragic one, as Lydia discovers one of the store's 'BookFrogs', Joey has hanged himself in the Western History section. The Bright Ideas bookstore is in Lower Downtown Denver, an area only just beginning to become gentrified. Change is inevitable but at present the alleys of the district are still home to the outcasts - the unemployed, the addicts, the lost and lonely - many of whom find companionship and solace in the aisles of the bookstore. They have been nicknamed BookFrogs after Beatrix Potter's Mr Jeremy Fisher and Lydia's kind and tender nature means they are drawn to her as she listens to their stories and allows them to 'leave their solitude at the door.' Joey was her favourite BookFrog and he adored her but that doesn't explain why there was a photograph of Lydia as a child in his front pocket. When he leaves his meagre possessions to her, she realises that though he never left a note, he has left a message through clues left in books. As Lydia works out his code she must examine her own cataclysmic past.
Although the novel is a mystery as Lydia seeks to find the reason for Joey's suicide and what it has to do with her history, it's also an exploration of how the events of childhood have a lifelong impact on a person and shape who they become. Both Lydia and Joey's lives have long shadows cast over them and when Joey's fragility eventually becomes too much to bear, Lydia must break down her protective walls in order to discover the truth. Lydia's own childhood is shattered by a violent crime which changes everything, destroying her friendships, taking her away from her home and perhaps irrevocably altering her relationship with her father. Lydia hides her past away from everyone, even her boyfriend and is fearful of the events of that tragic night ever catching up with her. When her childhood friend, Raj Patel unexpectedly shows up, she eventually realises she must face up to her long buried memories if she is ever to truly move on but in doing so she learns some devastating secrets and is forced to question just who she can trust as her life is once more turned on its head by this unsolved crime. The truth about the 'Hammerman' who destroyed her childhood isn't the only shock in this compelling book as decades old lies and betrayals are eventually revealed.
Matthew Sullivan's descriptive writing richly brings to the bookstore with its eccentric staff and clientele to life and his atmospheric imagery means the streets of Denver leap from the page. The past is captured evocatively in a novel where the smells, sights and sounds infuse the pages with a vivid realism. Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is a timely reminder of the importance of independent bookstores to our communities and is much more than the thriller I was expecting; it's an intricately plotted, thoughtful and well paced story which looks at the profound effects of pivotal moments in a person's life. I thoroughly enjoyed this dark, poignant and surprising debut and look forward to reading more from Matthew Sullivan in the future.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is published in the UK by Windmill Books and can be purchased here. Don't miss the other stops on the blog tour, details are below.

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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