I have long been attracted to stories set in and around bookstores. I owned a small independent bookstore for a few years, and there’s something about that culture that stays with me. Book people are just interesting folks to be around, and to read about.
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is set in Denver, and the main character, Lydia, is an employee at the store. Since joining the staff, she has informally adopted a group of men who are semi-affectionately called the BookFrogs by the staff. (I don’t recall the book ever explaining the name.) They are all homeless, or all-but-homeless men who spend many hours at the store, getting their daily dose of reading, or hiding from the elements, or just being around other people. Lydia befriends them all and looks out for them when she can.
The story opens when one of the regulars, Joey, commits suicide in the store by hanging himself. Lydia is the one to find him when they’re closing the store, and in doing so, discovers that Joey has in his pocket a photo of 10-year-old Lydia that she doesn’t recall ever having seen before.
One thing leads to another, and without giving away any more details, the rest of the novel is the journey of discovery Lydia takes as a result of Joey’s suicide, opening up a childhood trauma for Lydia and the unsolved mystery that stays with her.
The premise of the story is interesting. Hidden connections, surprising twists in the discovery, all of which contain the potential of a good mystery. (I can even see this being a film some day.) But ultimately, I was disappointed because it started and stopped in awkward fashion, went down paths that seemed unnecessary, introduced lots of characters it didn’t really need, and ultimately dragged. When we finally get to the dramatic conclusion, the drama happens off-stage, as it were, and it’s a pretty tame conclusion. So, not really my kind of book, but I’m a sucker for anything set in a bookstore.