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Wanda's Book Reviews

I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles.  (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore / Matthew Sullivan

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore: A Novel - Matthew J. Sullivan

When a bookshop patron commits suicide, his favorite store clerk must unravel the puzzle he left behind. 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 Joey Molina, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore’s upper room, 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 flips 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?

 

I’m always on the look-out for a good book about a library or bookstore and I’m also a fan of the mystery genre, so when I ran across this title, it went on my “to read sooner rather than later” list right away. I really enjoyed it—largely because of the setting (the bookstore) but also because the suicide wasn’t the only focus of the story. It becomes obvious early on that there is a mystery in Lydia’s background too, and one that she must sort out if she’s going to figure out why Joey Molina killed himself in her bookstore.

It takes courage to face the past and you can’t blame people for avoiding it whenever possible. Lydia is wary of becoming “Poor Lydia,” the girl who survived the Horrible Thing. But when your childhood trauma was front page news back in the day, it’s hard to avoid being recognized. It’s even harder to come to try to come to grips with a crime that’s colder than Greenland.

I loved the gradual reveal of Lydia’s memories and how she starts to try to make sense of them as an adult. I also found her gradual reunion with her father to be realistic and well done. There are lots of co-incidences and synchronicities required to weave the different story lines together, but nothing too incredible to deal with—I’ve seen real-life situations that would be more unbelievable than this. I also liked the slightly messy ending, being the sort of reader who doesn’t like everything tied up too neatly.

Perfect as the “Book that involves a bookstore or library” selection for my PopSugar challenge this year.