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Review: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

3/5 stars

TW: Suicide & murder

I thought this was a really fun, literary murder mystery - especially since it's mainly set in a book store, all the main characters are book lovers, and many of the clues to the mystery (mysteries, really) are found in books.

Lydia works at the Bright Ideas Bookstore (so named because it is housed in an old lightbulb factory), surrounded by quirky coworkers, and a group of regulars they call the "Book Frogs" - mostly men, many of them homeless, who make the store their home during open hours. Think the Lost Boys but older, in a city, and very well read.

While closing up one evening, Lydia finds that one of the Book Frogs - Joey, the youngest of the lot (early 20s, I think), and someone Lydia has taken under her wing - has committed suicide in the store. Mysteriously, stuffed in his pocket is a photo of little Lydia at her 10th birthday party. Lydia has never seen this photo. In fact, she has no photos of her younger self, having left her past far behind, along with a lot of secrets of her own surrounding a horrific childhood tragedy. Lydia soon learns that Joey has left all of his remaining possessions to her, including a bevy of purposefully defaced books that hold the clues to Joey's final days.

Thus begins a scavenger hunt of sorts, that reveals unexpected connections between the people in Lydia's past and present, and forces her to face the chilling realities of the incident that changed her entire life's trajectory. Sullivan does a great job of creating suspense by dropping hints that slowly uncover the truth, and there are a few really great "Aha!" reveals that will take you by surprise.

I rated this a 3 instead of a 4 because the epilogue is pretty weak. I would have liked a bit more on the repercussions of what happens in the "final act." But that wasn't enough to ruin the book - it's still a very clever, well thought out and well-written mystery!


UP NEXT: The Other Black Girl, by Zakiya Dalila Harris

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