REVIEW: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan

Following a young woman with a hidden past dealing with the suicide at the bookstore where she works, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J Sullivan weaves a multi-thread narrative that flashes back and forth different time periods. The story begins with Lydia Smith finding a photograph of herself in the pocket of Joey Molina after he unexpectedly commits suicide. This discovery leads her on a long and winding path that will ultimately unlock secrets she’s worked years to bury and uncover information about the life she left behind years ago. 

Sullivan skillfully creates a tangled mystery and methodically unravels the puzzle to a satisfying conclusion. There was never a moment when any reveals or actions left me scratching my head trying to make sense of things. Much of the novel centers on the theme of motivation. Why does Lydia keep her previous life deeply hidden? Why did Joey hang himself? Why did Lydia’s dad suddenly uproot and relocate the two of them to the woods? These and many other questions about what drives the characters actions are central to the story, with some being fully explored and others left to linger only partially explained.

However, the biggest issue for me was the distance that was created between the reader and the characters. I never felt like Sullivan did a deep dive with any of the characters and that left things feeling a little flat. Which is disappointing considering I really enjoyed the mystery. I never felt a connection with any of the characters much less Lydia who we follow most of the book. Yes, there is some backstory and personality conveyed, but nothing stood out as particularly interesting or endearing. I think more attention was given to ensuring that the puzzle’s solution was airtight, which I can appreciate, than creating a musli-layered protagonist. Overall, the story felt much more observational in a crime-of-the-week way that I would happily binge watch but probably won’t remember much by next week.

*3 Stars

*I received this book as an advance reader copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


  1. I don't have to like the characters but character development is more important to me than plot.


Post a Comment