Audio Book Review: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore: A Novel by Matthew Sullivan

Release Date: June 13, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Format: Audio
Length: 9 hours
Narrator: Madeleine Maby
Genre: Fiction/Suspense
Buy: Audible | Kindle | Paperback


When a bookshop patron commits suicide, his favorite store clerk must unravel the puzzle he left behind in this “intriguingly dark, twisty” (Kirkus Reviews) debut novel from an award-winning short story writer.

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?

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.


The death of a young man in the bookstore where Lydia works opens up a pandoras box of memories.  Lydia left town with her father and lived in the woods for most of her life. Running from the fear that the Hammerman, a murderer who killed her best friend and her family while she hid under the sink in the kitchen, would return. While Lydia is content with her life she has an estranged relationship with her father and a strange relationship with her boyfriend. When Joey commits suicide in the bookstore she works in she finds a picture of herself as a child in his pocket and winds up with her picture in the paper leading childhood friends to find her.

Unraveling the mystery of who Joey is and why he left her his belongings starts occupying Lydia's mind, but as it does so do the nightmares of the worst night of her life. Her childhood friend helps her try to figure out her connection to Joey and who the woman is that Joey wants her to find. When the story finally comes around the revelations are startling and scary.

I really enjoyed this book, the mystery of Joey and the clues he left behind are interesting and really spoke to me. The characters were well fleshed out and many were damaged by the secrets of the past. Secrets always come back, and our past has a strong impact on the decisions we make and how we interact with the world.