Length: 319 pages
Please note that the book cover leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book
What they say: 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.
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, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has inherited his meagre worldly possessions. Trinkets and books; the detritus of a lonely 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?
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, as she soon discovers, never completely left. 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.
The review: So I actually found this book via Claire Heuston over at Art and Soul (an epic book and baking blog, see review here and, having read the blurb, was keen to get over to Netgalley to request (Thanks so much to Cornerstone and Netgalley for this book in return for an honest review!)
Now Claire’s review basically told me that it was a beautiful book, with a fabulous bookstore in it that didn’t feature quite enough, with the story moving away from this fantastic setting to investigate a murder that had happened in the protagonist, Lydia’s life. She found this to be a slight disappointment and I was slightly disappointed when she said this, but decided that maybe this element would be different for me. Unfortunately not, although it didn’t always take away from the book.
It is a book of two paths, the first, the story of Joey, who sadly committed suicide at the Bright Ideas Bookstore. His suicide fully took hold of me, his climb to his death, with the sound of fluttering pages and falling books echoing around a bookstore that oozed character adding to the intrigue as to what was going on. Joey is a Bookfrog, one of many characters that enter the bookstore solely for somewhere to be, and my heart went out to him and wished for him to be stronger, and less beaten down by life.
We meet Lydia, one of the only people in Joey’s life, without being his actual person, and we soon realise she has some monstrous skeletons in her closet. Lydia starts looking into Joey’s death, and it brings her back to her own past, as we find out the horror she had to face as a child int he presence of ‘Hammerman’. There’s a number of characters about, some lovely, some tougher. I found Lydia to be overdramatic at times, even given her circumstances, and so I sometimes struggled.
We come to know her estranged childhood friend and father, who have also been affected by the goings on of times past. Her past itself, when revealed, is tough going, not by any means the toughest I’ve read by a longshot, but you’re so immersed in it and so filled with the sensation of the darkness and being enshrouded by snow, that it was one of the more headachy reads I’ve read recently, causing me to blink a few times on finishing, as if I’d just woken up, or stepped into the light myself. The way everything was put together in the end slightly perplexed me at times, and there was some overdramaticness on Lydia’s part in relation to her father especially.
It’s a tough book to review, because I was incredulous at some things that happened in terms of coincidences, and yet was so taken by some of the storytelling, settings and beauty of it all that it made me want to make people read just so they could experience it too, in particular the opening.