Monday, October 23, 2017

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

Reviewed by Jeanne

The Bright Ideas Bookstore draws people from all walks of life.  There are the intellectuals, parents browsing picture books, students looking for research, teens seeking the newest dystopian saga, and the displaced:  people with nowhere else to go.  The latter are called the Book Frogs.  Clerk Lydia Smith feels sorry for them, especially Joey, a troubled young man with a prison record and a deep love for books.  At last call before closing, Lydia goes looking for Joey and finds that he has hanged himself.

And she discovers Joey had a picture of her. . . a photo she has never seen before, taken at a party when she was ten.

Shocked on many levels, she pockets the picture before the police arrive.  They reach the obvious conclusion of suicide, especially since Joey left a note.  He also indicates that he leaves all his possessions to Lydia.

So begins a quest to learn the truth about Joey, and why a young man who seemed to be holding his own suddenly turns to suicide.  To unravel his story, Lydia must also look to her own past, and to long suppressed memories of a traumatic episode.

I do know better than to judge a book by its cover or even by its title, but even so I approached this one with the false impression that there would be a fantasy element. There isn’t.  Instead, this is a straight-forward account of a desperate young man and a woman with a hidden past.  It’s an interesting puzzle with well-defined characters and twists and turns, including some coded messages which may or may not hold the key to Joey’s suicide.  It’s a character driven story with an intriguing premise and a satisfying conclusion. I was drawn into the story from the start.  While there were a good many flashbacks to Lydia’s childhood, the telling made it seem immediate and not disjointed, as sometimes happens. 

This is an enjoyable debut novel which should please fans of both general fiction and mysteries.

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