Review of “Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore” by Matthew J. Sullivan

This unusual and disturbing story is part mystery, and part examination of a small, very dysfunctional group of people.


Lydia was psychologically scarred when she was 10 by being the only survivor of a gruesome murder at the house where she was at a sleepover. She managed to hide, but her girlfriend Carol and Carol’s parents were killed horrifically by someone who was never found, but was known thereafter as “The Hammerman.” The story was sensationalized at the time and retained a certain cult status, so Lydia uses a different last name, seeking to remain anonymous. She has never even told her boyfriend of five years about her past.

Now 30, Lydia has been working for the past six years at Bright Ideas Bookstore in Denver. As the story opens, one of the regulars in the store, Joey, just hung himself from the rafters of the top floor. It is Lydia who discovers him, and to her shock, she finds a childhood picture of herself in one of his pockets. She sets out to discover how he got this, and what message Joey intended for her. Her quest is aided by the fact that Joey bequeathed her his meager possessions, among them a set of mutilated books offering her clues, if a bit hard to decipher.

Lydia’s investigations eventually yield a number of shocking secrets, upending everything she thought she knew, and allowing her finally to solve the mystery of what really happened that traumatic night of her childhood she can never forget.

Evaluation: The mysteries in this book weren’t all that well hidden, but the process of their unfolding was interesting. But this isn’t a pleasant or diverting book; nor did it, in my opinion, offer any justification for including such nightmarish and violent images. It’s almost – but not quite – a horror story. I can’t say I enjoyed it enough to have been glad I read it.

Rating: 2.75/5

Published by Scribner, and imprint of Simon & Schuster, 2017


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9 Responses to Review of “Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore” by Matthew J. Sullivan

  1. Anything below 5/5 or 4/4 is out for me. Way too much to read!

  2. BermudaOnion says:

    Three’s an unsolved murder similar to that in Auburn – I wonder if that inspired the author. The book may be too gruesome for me.

  3. Rita K says:

    Sounds like a book I would hate.

  4. Alright, admit it. You picked up this book because it’s set in a bookstore. That’s what drew me to this review. It does seem like murder stories are trying to on-up each other on the gore factore lately.

  5. Rachel says:

    Have you read Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places? This book sounds very similar. It’s also about a woman whose family was murdered at home when she was a child and she was the only one who survived and is now on a quest to find out what really happened. Only it sounds like Dark Places is much better!

  6. Michelle says:

    Well, boo! I don’t mind gore and violence, so that won’t turn me away, but it sounds like your problem with the book is not just that. I am not hurting for things to read, so steering clear of this one won’t be a major issue. I hope your next book is much better!

  7. Beth F says:

    I was mildly interested in this, but now I won’t rush right out to read it … too many other good books.

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