A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Friday, August 14, 2020

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan - Feature and Review


Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the 'BookFrogs'—the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when youngest BookFrog Joey Molina kills himself in the bookstore’s upper level, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions: Trinkets and books, the detritus of a lonely, uncared-for man. But when Lydia pages through his books, she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?

As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey’s suicide, she unearths a long buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia’s life long ago—and never completely left, as she discovers.



Midnight at the Bright Ideas BookstoreMidnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan is a Scribner publication.

Ingenious! This book was everything I hoped it would be!

This book starts off on a shocking note, with the suicide death of Joey Molina. Joey hung himself right there in the Bright Ideas Bookstore and poor Lydia was the one who discovered his body.

For Lydia, Joey’s sudden death opens a Pandora’s box from her past. It all starts to unravel when her picture appears in the newspaper, and with the discovery she was bequeathed all of Joey’s earthly possessions.

Lydia is deliberately living a low -key life, enjoying her work as a clerk at the Bright Ideas Bookstore. Her childhood was marred by a horrific incident and the only way to avoid the stigma is to lay low.

But, now that her whereabouts are known, people from her past begin to seek her out- her estranged father, a detective with an unhealthy obsession, and her old childhood friend, Raj.

But, most of Lydia’s spare time is occupied by the puzzling clues Joey has left behind, which suggest Joey and Lydia are somehow connected. Joey’s coded messages could lead to the long overdue unmasking of a killer dubbed ‘The Hammerman’, who spared only one life in his rampage- Lydia’s.

Who can turn down the chance to read any book that is described as a ‘book about books’? That was a big draw for me when this book first showed up on my radar. That it also fell into the mystery/suspense genre made it all the more attractive.

From start to finish the story held me in rapt attention. The suspense slowly snuck up behind me, as the story gradually progressed from the mystery of Joey’s suicide and deciphering his codes, to morph into a rather chilling tale of a rampage killing, and cold case, that changed the course of Lydia’s life forever. As new details emerge, it appears that no one is what they seem, making it difficult to trust anyone.

The author has impeccable timing, doing an amazing job of dropping just the right amount of information, at just the right time, in order to keep the reader interested and full of anticipation, but keeping the most important facts close to the vest, so that it was next to impossible to guess who the killer was or what the motive might have been.

I found most of the characters intriguing and unique and nearly all of them were slightly quirky or offbeat, although I often found my inability to get a read on them frustrating at times. I can’t say I connected to any of them all that much, but understood why the author may have kept them at arm’s length.

Still, the story is incredibly absorbing and multi-layered, combining family dramas, friendship, psychological suspense, a horrifying cold case all together inside a ‘book about books’. Pretty nifty!

I enjoyed this imaginative and original mystery novel and do hope to see more books by this author in the near future.





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 Book Store 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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