I requested Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan on NetGalley in return for an honest review. A bookshop, a mystery told through book clues, a complex and quirky main character, a dark past that won’t quite let go- my kind of book! I absolutely loved it and devoured it in a day.
We see the world largely through Lydia’s eyes. A young bookseller at The Bright Ideas Bookstore, she is a listener and a watcher and has a wonderful talent for seeing the special qualities in her customers- who are often people living on the outskirts of society, finding refuge. I absolutely loved her observation of the men she calls bookfrogs, who remind her of Beatrix Potter’s Jeremy Fischer:
‘And when Lydia saw them folded into the corners for hours at a time, looking monastic and vulnerable, she thought of Beatrix Potter…. They were like plump and beautiful frogs scattered across the branches of the store, nibbling a diet of poems and crackers.’
But then Lydia’ life is turned upside down when one of these young bookfrogs, Joey, commits suicides upstairs at the bookstore, leaving behind clues for Lydia to follow as to why he chose to end his life. This event brings back memories for Lydia, of a story in her past that she has tried so hard to move on from but which hasn’t let her go. Sullivan drip feeds the mystery of Joey as well as Lydia’s past until they both intertwine; he sprinkles information and subtle hints brilliantly.
I must also mention how much I enjoyed Sullivan’s writing style generally; real, observant often quirky and utterly engaging.
It is hard to write about what I thought of the plot itself as I don’t want to give anything away. However, I will say that it is an exploration of the many layers of family dynamics, of the connection we human beings need to thrive, of love lost and found and sometimes lost again, of navigating grief, of what courage looks like, of books and book shops as lifelines. And when it comes down to it, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is a gripping story and I do love one of those.