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Lydia Smith has always found her escape in reading, and she needs it. A terrifying event in her childhood defined the rest of her life and left her isolated and lonely. Now a young woman working in a bookshop filled with aimless booklovers who often have no where else to go, she witnesses a devastating suicide and finds a strange and terrifying link to her own past. A clever, improbable, and ultimately satisfying read.
I enjoyed this book, though it won't be one I come back to again. It was an interesting story with chapters that weaved present-day and years-ago stories together until they crashed into each other in the final pages. I'm always a little disappointed when I can solve the whodunit before I'm supposed to, but even so, I sat and read this whole book in 3 days, so definitely worth checking out.
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore evokes pain and suffering and sadness.
The story begins with a terrible death of one of the dispirited customers. Joey Molina hangs himself in the bookstore just before closing time and of course, Lydia Smith finds Joey. In Joey’s pocket, Lydia finds a picture taken at her 10th birthday celebration. Why does Joey have this picture? Lydia begins her search that began 20 years ago when her best friend, Carol O’Toole, and her parents were brutally murdered with a hammer and Lydia remained hidden under the kitchen sink. The symbolism of broken hands surfaces with David, Lydia’s boyfriend, and his hand partially chopped off by the garbage disposable and with the boiled in hot oil of Maya Patel, Raj’s mother, hand. The amazing quest of Joey to mislabel and encode books to express his journey to find his birth mother. The story shows the troubling misconception of the poor, of the drug dependent, and of troubled souls. Lydia displays that overcoming your situation remains probable. The ending comes as a surprise.
Part mystery, part love letter to books, booksellers, and book lovers alike (and even includes a shout out to the gang back in receiving), Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is a very clever mystery about a suicide, a triple murder, and the lone survivor who has to put all the pieces together. The novel is set, I believe, in early 1990's Denver, when the baseball stadium was being built and the lower-downtown area was just beginning its long transformation from urban blight to imposing glass edifices and impossible to park. The Bright Ideas Bookstore was a place to escape the cold and lose yourself in three stories of books, a coffee shop, and a newsstand.
I came onto the scene in 2001, and by mid-year was working for an eerily similar bookstore in Denver. We didn't stay open until midnight back then, but I do recall closing on weekends at 11:00 pm, the bars in full swing and many a colorful character wandering (sometimes staggering) in for a last look at the books or a quick trip to the restroom (perhaps to vomit). I remember having my lunch at the 16th and Wynkoop intersection late in the summer. Today, hundreds and hundreds of people and vehicles pass by in a hurry going this way and that. But back then on that day there was not another soul in sight, until...a very old man came upon me violently swing his cane. I was sure he was going to hit me with it, but he eventually calmed down and we had lunch together. It was nice. I only saw him one more time after that, still swinging the cane.
But getting back to the book. At the onset of the story, star bookseller Lydia discovers one of her regulars, Joey, hanging by his neck on the third floor of the bookstore (that's right, the third floor). Based upon my lower-downtown experience of those years past, I don't find that scenario implausible at all. The hanged man leaves a clue on his person that connects Lydia to a dark incident in her past. So begins a humble bookseller's fascinating journey through gritty downtown Denver and into the snowy mountains as she attempts to solve the riddle of a suicide and the identity of a murderer.
Longtime Denver folks will recognize the many so accurately described landmarks in the novel including the Wazee Supper Club, the 16th Street mall, a certain independent bookstore, Capitol Hill, Colfax, the dive bars, the slushy alleys. Very longtime Denver folks and booksellers may even recognize themselves. Who could guess a book about suicide and homicide could be such fun to read?
I liked this story about am underacheiving bookseller still suffering some PTSD from a childhood trauma. Closing her bookstore one night, she discovers a suicide in the history section...a young man she knew only as a regular at the bookstore, who, curiously, had a childhood picture of her protruding from his pocket. Slowly she discovers who he was, and some loose ends she's always lived with are finally tied up.
This one is a little more graphic and grizzly than I typically enjoy; however, the plot unfolds beautifully and Lydia and Raj are a sympathetic pair.
The plot did not engage my interest; I felt minimal connection of interest toward the main characters because the author created too much enigma and "shadowed silence" too early in the story....and...Lydia's story... rather scary. etc. etc.
So I don't read a lot of mystery/thriller books but this one hooked me in. I was kept guessing until the end and even then there were twists I never could have predicted. Less of the bookstore then I would have liked but that's okay! Thank you Matthew Sullivan for creating this awesome novel that got me back into mystery novels!
An OK read, but the bookstore setting has little to do with the plot. I thought of giving up a few times, but stuck with it to see if the astounding co-incidence that sets up the whole plot was explained as more than just an astounding coincidence (which it wasn't.) And the whole cut-out-in-book code was ridiculous. If Lydia and Raj appear in another book they'll do so without me.
Its been awhile since I've read a mystery and wasn't disappointed. Was able to figure out the ending about 2/3rds through, but still enjoyed how the story played out.
While I loved the idea, this novel falls flat in terms of it's endless attempts at "plot twists." It's certainly not as dark as some reviewers describe, in fact at times elements such as the name "Hammerman" I feel undercut any sort of poignancy towards Lydia or Joey's situations. That being said, I read it quickly and did enjoy it. But I braced myself mid-way for what I knew would be a disappointing ending which perhaps allowed me to better enjoy the story.
The main character, Lydia, was believable and, from my vantage point, well fleshed out. The author gives her an inner life which I found realistic. Male authors sometimes find female characters a bit tricky in my experience. (I wonder if men find that true of female writers and male characters.). I may have missed how Lyle was able to obtain Joe's ashes which is not easily done, even when you are a family member. So that nags at me a bit. I enjoyed the book and would definitely read other mysteries by this author. Especially if set in bookstores, my favorite of all places. After libraries that is.
So satisfying the way all the plot lines come together. Interesting characters and a great setting - Denver and the mountains!
Lydia works at the Bright Ideas Bookstore in a gentrifying area of Denver. She is the queen of customer service, building relationships and experiences with the regular customers, whom she refers to as “BookFrogs”. Her life is fine and dandy, if a little dull, until one of her BookFrogs commits suicide in the store.
BookFrog Joey was a troubled kid who found solace in reading, and if his sudden suicide wasn’t shocking enough, he left no note, only a photograph from Lydia’s 10th birthday in his pocket. And evidently left all his meager worldly possessions to her as well.
So now Lydia’s on a quest to figure out why the hell Joey did all this. He wasn’t some crazy stalker, was he? Fortunately, no. Unfortunately, the answer is a lot more complicated than that. It involves secret coded messages and long-lost best friends and estranged fathers and 20-year-old cold cases.
The twists and turns in this book are astounding as Lydia’s backstory is slowly revealed, along with Joey’s connection to it. It’s definitely a mystery that kept me guessing.
Don’t let the title/name of the bookstore fool you. There is very little “bright” about this novel. Except perhaps the ending.
I enjoyed the book and believe its strength was in taking us into the world of bookstore personalities and quirky patrons. The author nicely integrated Denver settings into the story and kept up the who-done-it suspense until near the end. The ending didn't match the quality of the rest of the story, but overall, it earned a solid four stars.
There are certain engaging elements to this book. The setting reads as lived-in and authentic, though I've never been to Denver so I don't know if it lines up well to reality. The plot is compelling and the characters are intriguing. However, more than a few plot points feel either predictable, soap opera-y, or both. I enjoyed it well enough as a nice, light read in the mystery genre, but I don't think it fully lives up to the hype or feels particularly innovative.
If you do you want to wait to read this book, try a similar title and plot, The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson. Mostly a good read, a bit predictable toward the end.
Have no idea why this book gets such good ratings. A dreary read about dreary people's dreary unhappy lives. Gave it 1 star for the interesting plot idea of the coded messages but not a book that extends your vocabulary or your knowledge in any way. The supposed underlying psychology on which the plot hangs is thin.
I loved this book. It had all the elements I love. The setting was in and around a bookshop with bookish people. There was murder, suspense and intrigue. Together with a code made out of second-hand books, the book was fabulous.
For some reason I didn't expect this to be as much of a dark mystery as it was. Lydia was a very sympathetic, realistic character. There were a few elements of the story that were somewhat unrealistic and a bit too coincidental for me, but I was willing to overlook them. There's a sadness to this story that some may not enjoy, but that only lent to the realistic quality for me.
I am a sucker for any book that takes place in this great state of ours. That is why I picked it up - and I am glad I did. I enjoyed this book a great deal. This is an incredible debut for this local author. I will keep my eyes out for other books that he writes.
Although this book was recently written the 'adult years' of the main character take place in Denver 30ish years ago. They never called out the year, but they mention LoDo before the baseball field. I thought it was a really interesting choice that provided a subtle details that I appreciated.
You would think a mystery that begins with a suicide in a bookstore couldn't get any more shocking than that, but this book had so many twists and turns I got whiplash. I'd finish a chapter and have to keep reading to find out what happens next.
a very enjoyable book and quick read if you like cold cases with a lot of twists.
Tangy is the daughter of a light-colored mother who has fathered several children, each with a different father. Although no longer wanting to serve as a maid in a white family’s house, she forces Tangy and her older sister into prostitution to support their brothers and sisters. Filled with sadness most often caused by the mother’s insanity, Tangy still hopes she will graduate from high school and find a peaceful life for her and her younger sisters. Poignantly written, this story shows how determination and stubbornness help people survive in a life in which they have no control.