“Midnight at the Great Ideas Bookstore” by Matthew Sullivan


I love bookstores so any book about a bookstore gets my attention.  The Bright Ideas Bookstore is a fictional bookstore in Denver loosely based on the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver’s historic LoDo district where the author used to work.

The central character is 30-year-old Lydia Smith who loves her job at the Bright Ideas Bookstore – the employees and regular customers bond to form a loose family.  The community is shaken when one of the regular customers, Joey Molina, hangs himself with a belt among the stacks at the store at midnight without a suicide note.  Even more disturbing is that he bequeathed his meager belongings to Lydia.  She is led to unravel the puzzle of his last days when she discovers Joey has left coded messages to her in pages of his books.  And why did Joey have a picture in his pocket of Lydia’s 10th birthday party?

When a childhood friend, Raj Patel, reappears in Lydia’s life she revisits an unsolved 20-year-old tragedy.  Causing a media frenzy at the time, the Hammerman, who, while Lydia was on a sleepover as a child, brutally killed her friend and her friend’s family with a hammer, leaving Lydia alive, hiding under the sink. The Hammerman was never caught, and Lydia seeks answers from the now-retired detective who handled the case, but she may not want to hear what he has to say. Turns out he always suspected her father was the killer but was stopped from pursuing that path, even in the face of some compelling evidence, and he’s never let go of his suspicion. After all, why did the killer let Lydia live after killing a 10-year-old girl and her parents?


The book is filled with quirky characters and the descriptions of the store and surroundings are vivid. The plot is full of surprises and the final resolution to the story is packed with coincidences that strain credulity, but this creative and intricately plotted mystery still largely satisfies.

Watch Bryan on WZZM Channel 13’s “My West Michigan” morning show at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, September 6.  Join The Book Nook’s monthly book club at 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, September 5 to discuss Midnight at the Great Ideas Bookstore at the Book Nook & Java Shop in Downtown Montague with refreshments, snacks, beverages, and camaraderie; of course, everyone is welcome. The Club meets monthly all year long.  Get 20% off the Book Club’s book selection all month, too.