Don’t be fooled by that shiny cover. Darkness lies within! 3/5.
Thank you to Random House UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.
The blurb: 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 youngest BookFrog Joey Molina kills himself in the bookstore’s upper level, 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 pages 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 never completely left, as she discovers.
My experience of this book suffered because I went into it expecting one thing, but got something else entirely. I think the cover and the blurb somehow made me think this was going to be more magical and mysterious than it was. And that there’d be more about books and the bookshop. Books about books are always a lure.
I liked the central mystery. It was unravelled carefully and at a good pace with a couple of big surprises. Details of the extremely traumatic incident in Lydia’s past are drip-fed to us slowly and when we finally get the full account of what happened I think it’s one of the most gripping, horrifying things I’ve ever read: some particularly brilliant writing in that section.
Unfortunately I didn’t connect with any of the characters which also put a dampener on my experience. It’s a shame because Midnight and the Bright Ideas Bookstore is an interesting combination of genres and if I’d cared more about Lydia then I’d have been truly hooked and swept along by her discoveries.
Overall: I can see why this book has so many fans. Sullivan has created a well-written, intriguing story with idiosyncratic settings and a decent central mystery. I’m just sorry it fell a little flat for me.
Claire Huston / Art and Soul