cover image Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore

Matthew Sullivan. Scribner, $26 (336p) ISBN 978-1-5011-1684-1

Sullivan’s solid first novel opens with 30-year-old bookseller Lydia Smith finding the corpse of Joseph Molina hanging from a beam in Denver’s Bright Ideas Bookstore. The lonely 20-something ex-con spent countless hours wandering the shop, but Lydia can’t fathom why he chose to commit suicide there—or why he died with a photograph of Lydia’s 10th birthday party in his pocket. Her confusion grows when she inherits Joey’s belongings and discovers coded messages addressed to her hidden inside his books. Lydia’s efforts to answer the questions surrounding Joey’s death uncover clues to a cold case from her own past—a household massacre that only Lydia survived. Flashbacks to Lydia’s childhood told from her father’s perspective help build the tension. Quirky characters and a keen sense of place distinguish this multigenerational tale of abandonment, desperation, and betrayal. Sullivan’s writing occasionally calls too much attention to itself and a surfeit of coincidence strains credulity, but this inventive and intricately plotted mystery still largely satisfies. [em]Agent: Kirby Kim, Janklow & Nesbit. (June) [/em]