Midnight At the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan is a mystery/general fiction with a really good hook. A homeless man Joey commits suicide at a bookstore the clerk that he would interact with him finds him, along with his body he has a picture of the clerk, Lydia when she was a teenager. This book has great insight on the homelessness situation, but not much about actual books. I was hoping for a lot more book talk since there’s a code using books, this book is more about personal tragedy and connections. The pace of the book is uneven at times, the mystery wraps in a nice little bow, and it didn’t need, it makes the connections that I feel didn’t need to be connected. Midnight At the Bright Ideas Bookstore is Matthew Sullivan’s debut novel.
The Plot: Joey is known as a “bookfrog” a drifter that comes in all the time to the bookstore and good to different sections and reads, with occasionally buying something. Lydia is a clerk that treats the bookfrogs nice and has a nice relationship with them. She and another associate find Joey hanging from the rafters with a pile of books nearby. While searching for a suicide note Lydia finds a picture of herself as a teenager right before a tragic event that changes her life. She gets in the paper and a people from her past start reaching out. She is given Joey’s things by his landlord which are books from her store with words cut out. She discovers this is a code book that uses other books to fill in the blanks and could lead to answers to why he committed suicide and answers to her own past.
What I Liked: The codes are really clever, I had a fun time trying decipher the words before the text told me. I liked Joey’s past I thought it was very heartbreaking and effective. Everything about the Hammerman was interesting and set up a pretty compelling mystery in its self on who the killer was in the end. I liked the character of Raj and Plath the best, good secondary characters very loyal to Lydia and added some much needed comic relief. The hook of the book got me to pick this one up, and it was a highlight of the book. I appreciated that this book starts with a bang, the first chapter really free me in.
What I Disliked: The pacing in this novel dragged a lot in the middle, the beginning and end are really good and well paced, but not the middle. I didn’t understand why Lydia checked out on her dad Tomas, I felt he was doing a lot to make sure she had a life. The book got away from the codes that part was interesting, but the codes didn’t reveal much of anything.
Recommendation: I wanted to like this story a bit more not great but good. I did not like it enough to recommend. I think people will enjoy it more than me if you are in to word codes. This book is being marketed more as a mystery but it is more of a standard fiction than mystery. I rated Midnight At the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan 3 out of 5 stars.