I received Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore in exchange for an honest review
This was a wonderful, quirky surprise, quite unlike anything else I’ve read this year. A twisty mystery thriller, packed with eccentric characters, bookish references and hidden secrets.
The Bright Ideas Bookstore has its regulars, those bookseller Lydia has affectionately named ‘Book Frogs’. Mainly men, the Book Frogs are lost and lonely, those who’ve slipped through the cracks of society and finding a peaceful refuge in the store. And they seem harmless, until Lydia finds one of them hanging from the ceiling, with an old photograph of her tenth birthday party in his pocket.
Joey was a little different, but Lydia liked having him around the store. “He was a shattered young man, Lydia often thought, haunted but harmless – a dust bunny blowing through the corners of the store.” His death shakes Lydia, but she’s drawn in deeper when she finds out he’s left the entire contents of his flat to her, including a stack of books with hidden messages which leads her on a journey into her own past.
The way Joey leaves his code in books for Lydia to find was genius, and it’s fitting that this lonely book lover uses this as his last method of communication, even from beyond the grave. “Joey’s books were Joey’s solace, so doing this, inserting himself so personally into them, may have been the only way he could profess his burdens to the world.”
As Lydia tries to get to the bottom of Joey’s suicide, she’s forced to confront her own past, including a brutal murder she witnessed when she was 13 years old by the ‘Hammerman’. But why did the Hammerman spare young Lydia? And how is Joey connected to her past? Everyone’s a suspect and everything is connected in this multi-layered tale.
I have to admit this novel wasn’t quite what I expected – I went into it expected a cosy, bookish mystery and, while I got the bookish part right, there’s nothing cosy about this story. It’s dark and heart-achingly sad in places, but there’s a quirky sense of humour and eccentricity peppered throughout which keeps the subject matter of suicide and murder from getting too intense. The writing was unique and elegant, as the author brings the threads together to tell a melancholic, atmospheric and touching story.