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Multilayered, mysterious and lovely

Cover of Midnight at the Bright Ide
A review of Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

The Lakeview Library mystery book group picked Sullivan's debut about a year ago (when we picked all of 2018's titles) so I'd pretty much forgotten anything I knew about the title and why I suggested it as a possible read. And when I read the first few chapters I began to be a little uneasy, would there be enough mystery for a "mystery" book group? The death that starts the book off is explained in the first chapter, so now what? Well I needn't have feared. The book was not only engrossing and lovely to read, but ended up leading to a very nice discussion for our group.

The Bright Ideas Book Store of the title is modeled on the real-life Tattered Cover Book Store that's been a mainstay in Denver since the early 70s. Working there in the late 90s is an eclectic group of souls who are almost as eccentric as some of the transient population who use the store as a place to be during the day, known affectionately by the staff as the BookFrogs. One of those BookFrogs is Joey Molina, a lonely young man who one night hangs himself in the store. His body is discovered by Lydia, his favorite staff person, who is understandably devastated by his death. When she learns he's left her his worldly possessions, a suit of clothes that looks barely worn, and his collection of books, Lydia is at first puzzled and then intrigued. Because within the books she finds hidden messages that send her on an emotional quest, one that not only connects to Joey's past, but to her own as well.

There is mystery aplenty here - and that was good. But there's also a compassionate exploration of the secrets and the hidden grief that many people carry. Sullivan has a sure hand with characterization and he winds and weaves several plots into a satisfying whole.

Aug 20, 2018