Skip to main content


Literary Friday: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore

Friday, August 11, 2017

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Summer is winding down, and I have put a dent in my summer reading list.  This week I read Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan. Y'all know that I'm a sucker for a title with "bookstore" or a book with a bookstore setting.

According to Goodreads:

When a bookshop patron commits suicide, it’s his favorite store clerk who must unravel the puzzle he left behind in this fiendishly clever debut novel from an award-winning short story writer.

Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the 'BookFrogs'—the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when youngest BookFrog Joey Molina kills himself in the bookstore’s upper level, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions: Trinkets and books, the detritus of a lonely, uncared-for man. But when Lydia pages through his books, she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?

As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey’s suicide, she unearths a long buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia’s life long ago—and never completely left, as she discovers.

Bedazzling, addictive, and wildly clever, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is a heart-pounding mystery that perfectly captures the intellect and eccentricity of the bookstore milieu and will keep you guessing until the very last page.​

My Review:

One of the librarians at my local library recommended Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore. I was intrigued because of the premise of the book:  A young woman "inherits" a mystery when Joey, one of the "Book Frogs" at the bookstore where she works, kills himself there.  When Lydia was ten years old, she was the sole survivor of a home invasion that killed her friend Carol and her parents. Dubbed The Hammerman, this killer gave Denver's children nightmares for years.  Lydia is still living the nightmare, and she's shocked when she finds a photo in Joey's pocket...a photo of her with Carol and another friend from her tenth birthday party shortly before The Hammerman murdered Carol and her parents.  Lydia withholds this information about the photo from the police because she's so stunned that Joey had it.

Soon, Joey's landlady stops by the bookstore to tell Lydia she's inherited Joey's meager possessions. Lydia is shocked to see that Joey had defiled books by cutting tiny rectangles from certain pages. The books have been mislabeled, and this oddity is the first clue that impels Lydia to solve the mystery Joey has left her.  This premise had me hooked early in the book.  I couldn't put it down although I found many of the characters unappealing.  I don't normally read suspense/thrillers, but I was determined to see this one through because I couldn't imagine how Little Lydia survived The Hammerman, and I wanted to know the connection between Joey and Lydia.

I loved this book until the ending where it falls a bit flat.  I was also disappointed that Sullivan didn't string together Joey's clues chronologically; I would have appreciated more closure from Joey. Disappointments aside, I think that Sullivan is a very good writer and this is a good debut novel.

Notice:  Next Friday there won't be a Literary Friday post because I'll be participating in the Summertime Tablescape Challenge hosted by Katherine's Corner.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


  1. Sounds great! I want to read this one. :)

  2. I just wrote this down. After years and years of buying books (and ultimately giving most of them away this last year) I went to the library this morning and got a library card (my old one was so old it was no longer in their system. I didn't have my book list with me- left my cell in the car charging- so randomly picked up a couple of books. Now I will make a list and request books I want to read. This one is going to be on that list! xo Diana

  3. I would like to read this. The genre is one of my faves... I was living in Denver when the Hammer Murderer, as he was then known in the press, was in full swing. I guess I left before he was caught, because I do not remember any resolution. People were quite terrified, as was I when my son had come home sick from school one day and engaged all the security locks before going to bed. After work, when I couldn't get in, I went next door and my neighbor, a firefighter, called it in. They showed up in full regalia along with the police, and they tried to make me stay outside while they went in and checked. My son woke up completely befuddled as to why the house was full of cops and firemen, but at least my story has a happy ending. I lived right in the area where some of the attacks happened, and it was unnerving to say the very least.

  4. This sounds very creepy! I don't like it when the ending disappoints...Right now I'm reading a chick lit series by Chelsea Field, it's about a specially trained secret agent that taste tests food for potential poison victims, clients that are VIPs or celebrities. At first I thought it was strange, but it's actually fascinating and well written with romance and quirky characters. Its a little scary, but not dark. I read 3 of the books this week! Keep the great reviews coming!

  5. This makes me yearn for the days of cute little bookshops.

  6. This sounds like a good thriller/mystery I will add to my "list". Hope you are enjoying the lake.........

  7. I'm not familiar with this book, so I appreciate your thoughtful review. Sorry the ending was disappointing. I hate when that happens.

  8. Hey Ricki--Just me again- Question for you...Is there anywhere on your blog where you actually have a list of the books you read/recommend? I may be missing it? I have failed to write down a couple of books you recommended and can't remember which ones they were was hoping there was some sort of list somewhere. If not--don't worry about it---my problem! xo Diana

    1. I actually have some of my favorite books listed with links from the past several years on my Literature page. If you have a particular genre, I can give you some great recommendations! :)


Comments are friendly!


I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.

Follow me on Instagram