MIDNIGHT AT THE BRIGHT IDEAS BOOKSTORE by Matthew Sullivan: A Review

Not quite a “cozy mystery,” but nearly one, this 2017 novel by Sullivan has twists and turns, oddball characters, and is a page-turning, quick, enjoyable read. Lynda, who works at the Bright Ideas Bookstore has a special place in her heart for the “Brook Frogs,” misfits and sometimes homeless men who hang out most days at the bookstore. Joey and Lyle, two strangely-matched friends are her favorites. Near closing time, Lynda goes looking for Joey who hasn’t come by the register yet, and, well, let the author set the scene…

“…The third floor was dim and peaceful…Something squeaked…’Last call, Joey!” She could feel her eyes trying to shut out what she was seeing: Joey, hovering in the air, swinging like a pendulum. A long ratcheted strap was threaded over a ceiling beam and looped around his neck.”  The writing is masterful; the reader is there.

Joey has left two things for Lynda. There is a photo of Linda at her  tenth birthday party in his pocket (which she hides), and she is “willed” a series of books Joey owned, all cut up with razor blades, which reveal a coded message directly to Linda. Why did her friend hang himself? What is her connection to this homeless man?  As Lynda searches for answers, she consults retired police detective Moberg, who all along has suspected Lynda’s recluse father of a horrendous murder to which Lynda was the only witness. For a moment, Lynda suspects her father; for a moment we suspect him. Reconnecting with her father to determine his connection with Joey, she has flashbacks of witnessing from underneath a kitchen cupboard the night her best friend and both her parents were savagely murdered.  Lynda and her father have been estranged for years, and the job at the Bright Ideas bookstore was the safe haven of a woman trying to hide her past as the “Little Lynda” the tabloids and TV broadcasts screamed about until the next sensational tragedy came to pass.

I can’t call this a page-turner because I read it on a Kindle, but I couldn’t swipe quickly enough! It is a fine read, wonderfully written and deserves some kind of award.