Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

four and a half dragons

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I read Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore as an audiobook. I wasn’t a fan of the narrator early on because she has such an odd way of pausing during dialogue, especially for men. For some reason when the men speak they pause after. Every. Word. As. If. It. Is. Written. Like. This. Not my favorite, but after a while, I got over it because I loved the writing and the story.

I’m not sure if the name of the bookstore is meant to be a nod to City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, but if it is I’m extra delighted.

I didn’t like David for some reason. Perhaps because he didn’t seem that invested in KNOWING Lydia. He seemed complacent about their relationship being glorified roommates. I liked him well enough as a character, but I didn’t like him as Lydia’s boyfriend.

There are only a few characters relevant to who might be the killer so it made guessing which one was the killer a bit easier. However, I hadn’t fully settled on one person as the murderer and even if I had I would have had no clue as to their motive. Even when the clues start to form a picture I was still shocked and horrified. Even after all is discovered the story doesn’t stop shocking the reader.

What’s more, is that it made me emotional. When Lydia says, “He deserved a better [person] than you,” I cried. If you haven’t read the blurb about this book then spoiler alert. If you have read it then continue. I wanted so much more for Joey. I wanted him to somehow, miraculously be alive and I wanted him to get everything he deserved. This is a mystery with great heart and warmth mixed in with its iciness.

Lydia comes across kind of like a hot mess. She keeps getting hit on but is also told that her hair looks like she is a fan of electricity, to say the least. At first, I thought she was just an average person especially due to her continued comments about being undeserving of someone as attractive as David, but then people kept hitting on her and using phrases that indicate above average beauty. It’s a small thing, but I think it was a very light-handed way of showing how people view themselves versus how people see them.

My two favorite things were the writing/voice and the characters. Matthew Sullivan is a master with words. My favorite phrase in the book comes when Joey is asking Lydia about the worth of a book. She says it costs forty-eight cents because it is on the discount rack and he responds by asking about it’s worth NOT it’s cost. How much time and effort and knowledge went into the making of this book all for it to be sold to anyone, even a book burner or some other great evil, for less than half a dollar. And then he says

“Somethings wrong in the air when a book costs less than a bullet.”

That line is also a huge part of why I love the characters. Plath. Hi-guy. Joey. Lyle. Each is so unique and delightful and full of feeling. Plath is probably my favorite character because I want someone like her in my own life. The way she speaks is so uniquely made to be a character in a book and yet she retains a believability and charm. And the bookstore in which all these characters meet is practically a character in itself with full physical descriptions and details about its sections that feel like moods. I’ve recently applied to the bookstore in my town and I’m a librarian, so I have a starry-eyed view of all things books.

My one question regarding storyline is why did Lydia move back to Denver let alone so close to one of her old haunts if she didn’t wish to be recognized? This may have been addressed early on in the book with a short paragraph about how she still felt at home there, but I don’t remember it.

**Spoiler**

It’s easy to tell by the second half of the book that Lydia and David won’t make it as a couple. He isn’t emotionally relevant or invested and she isn’t secure in their relationship. She wonders if he cheats while he’s away and constantly reminds herself that people assume the only reason they are together is that he has a crippled hand. He keeps a huge secret from her and she doesn’t share it with him either. They both deserve someone they can trust.

**end of spoiler**

Truly worth the read. Readers who enjoy literary books and literary mysteries are in for a treat and all of us booklovers can definitely give Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore a go.

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