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Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore: A Novel Paperback – January 9, 2018
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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"With Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, Matthew Sullivan has written—with great panache and suspense—a smart, twisty crime novel filled with compelling characters set in a world that book-lovers will adore."—Jess Walter, # 1 New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Ruins
"This book ticked all the boxes for me: an engaging heroine, an intriguing premise, interesting characters and a plot that involved books, readers and the very darkest human passions. A fantastic, assured debut."—Elly Griffiths, author of The Crossing Places
“There is a clever, erudite puzzle plot in this bookish mystery, along with whip-smart writing. Matthew Sullivan’s debut is stylish and entertaining.”—Ellen Crosby, author of The Champagne Conspiracy
"An intriguingly dark, twisty story and eccentric characters make this book a standout."--Kirkus Reviews
“Quirky characters and a keen sense of place distinguish this multi-generational tale of abandonment, desperation, and betrayal . . . inventive and intricately plotted.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“This quirky debut novel will have particular appeal for puzzle solvers and booklovers.” —Booklist
“Though darker than other beloved novels set in bookstores, this story will appeal to fans of Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and Katarina Bivald’s The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. Mystery readers will also appreciate the clever connections between the characters and the crimes.” —Library Journal
“Personally, I couldn’t resist Matthew Sullivan’s Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, an appealing first novel....The oddball characters and layered plot make this puzzle mystery both charming and challenging.” —Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
“A strong debut. . . powerful, intricate tale of broken friendship and family loyalties.” —The Seattle Times
“Twisty and dark, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is a remarkable debut that will leave readers unsettled and probably yearning to pay a visit to their local bookstore.” —BookPage
About the Author
Matthew Sullivan received his MFA from the University of Idaho and has been a resident writer at Yaddo, Centrum, and the Vermont Studio Center. His short stories have been awarded the Robert Olen Butler Fiction Prize and the Florida Review Editor’s Prize for Fiction and have been published in many journals, including The Chattahoochee Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Fugue, Evansville Review, and 580-Split. In addition to working for years at Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver and at Brookline Booksmith in Boston, he currently teaches writing, literature, and film at Big Bend Community College in the high desert of Washington State. The author of Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, he is married to a librarian and has two children.
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One particular pet peeve was the description of characters', particularly Lydia's, physical "deep" responses to supposedly powerful or revelatory information - something like, "She felt like the air had been sucked out of her": or "Suddenly, the world's light had disappeared and she was left in darkness" (these are not actual quotes). Aside from the fact that there were so many of these hyperbolic reactions, what bugged me was that they came at times that were supposed to be when Big Things were discovered, but I wasn't feeling it. The writer was trying to move me by telling me that I was supposed to be moved. To me that seems like a failure on the part of the events themselves and/or the characterization of the character.
Still, I read on, and it was okay. Wish it had stayed as good as at the beginning.
"Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore" presented me with a conundrum of sorts. It was a book set in a bookstore and I have a soft spot for books about books or bookstores or libraries. Apparently there was going to be a death in the bookstore so I expected this to be a murder mystery but it was set in a bookstore. The bookstore angle got the better of me and I bought it and started reading. What I did not know was that the death in the bookstore would lead to opening an investigation of a cold case home invasion murder involving the protagonist of the book. That wasn't good, at least not for me. So before I pick this book apart let me try to be as objective as I can about the good parts of the book. It is well written and there are plot twists sufficient to keep the average reader entertained and interested. However, if the reader possesses any analytical skills at all and is a careful reader then the identity of the mystery killer will become obvious by the middle of the book, it was for me and I don't think that's good for a mystery. The twists the author provides are pure fantasy applied to make the plot interesting and moving but totally unrealistic but hey this is fiction.
The author does give us an acceptably good portrayal of just how brutal a murder of the nature depicted really is but mercifully keeps the gore within limits. And there is my personal objection and one of the reasons I avoid such stories. Murder as an entertainment? Really? I can understand the human fascination with puzzles and mysteries and the desire to solve them but isn't there a better way to create such puzzles? Murder is brutal and violent and rarely ever committed with the forethought found in fiction. In this book the murder in question would definitely have never become a cold case as it would have been solved within a week. It is possible that the wrong person would have been charged and convicted and that might have lead to a better story involving the same protagonist but it would never have been left open like what was done in this story. I'm sorry but nobody in the real world kills like the characters in fiction and while cops may have their short comings they are rarely as dumb as the way they are portrayed in fiction. To read this book requires the reader to accept that many of the characters lack a level of intelligence that they should possess or that they are all incredibly naive and this naivete prevents them from seeing some very obvious cause and effect consequences. My personal opinion of this book is lower than my rating but I give it 3 stars as probably an acceptable addition to its genre. (
All of that being said, I love a good mystery with a lot of twists and I didn't have this one figured out until the very end. It also kept me up late into the night reading so it's not all bad.