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Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan

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Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on June 13, 2017
Source: Purchased
Genres: Mystery
Length: 8 hrs 59 mins
Format: Audiobook
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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 Joey McGinty, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore’s back room, 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 flips 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, as she soon discovers, never completely left. Bedazzling, addictive, and wildly clever, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is a heart-pounding mystery that perfectly captures the intellect and eccentricity of the bookstore milieu and will keep you guessing until the very last page.​

I admit it – I picked up Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore based mostly on the title and cover. I have trouble passing up mysteries centered in bookstores. While it was not really what I expected, I enjoyed it. I expected a lighter mystery, more cozy. While not gory or violent, this one is disturbing at times.

Lydia is the only survivor of the night the Hammerman killed her friend and her friend’s parents, but she hides this fact from everyone. She was a child at the time, but the Hammerman was never caught. Fast forward and now she’s an adult, working at a bookstore, living with her boyfriend, who she has not told about her past.

As the story opens, Lydia discovers one of the bookfrogs, Joey, has committed suicide in the book store. That would be devastating enough, but in his pocket he has a picture of Lydia as a child, with two of her friends, which is odd because Lydia didn’t even know Joey when she was young. Turns out Joey also left her all of his belongings, mostly junk and books. The books, however, are a code that leads her into his life and back into the mystery that has haunted her. There is some minor new coverage of the suicide, which gets Lydia’s picture in the paper. Several people recognize her and now know where to find her, including a childhood friend and a detective who was obsessed with the Hammerman case.

The characters were well-done, even the ones we only meet briefly. Lydia, as the main character, is the most developed, and a lot of the story revolves around her relationships. I don’t necessarily understand her all the time and I don’t think I’d want her as a friend, but I liked her and I liked how much she cared about Joey. The characters are colorful in a way that fits the darker tone of the book. They have their obsessions and secrets. They are all dealing with the consequences of actions, taken by themselves of others.

I listened to the audio and was so-so on the narrator. She did Lydia quite well, but men’s voices and dialogue was just too slow.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore has many layers and deals with relationship, truths, secrets and how our actions can hurt others, sometimes beyond repair. I guess it’s a rather sad book. At the same time, it is definitely a mystery for and about booklovers. I wish I had chosen print over audio, though.

About Matthew Sullivan

Matthew Sullivan grew up in a family of eight children in suburban Denver, Colorado. He received his B.A. from the University of San Francisco, his M.F.A. from the University of Idaho, and has been a resident writer at Yaddo, Centrum, and the Vermont Studio Center. His writing has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and other awards, and has won the Florida Review Editor’s Prize and the Robert Olen Butler Fiction Prize. In addition to working for years at Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver and at Brookline Booksmith in Boston, he has taught writing and literature at colleges in Boston, Idaho, and Poland, and currently teaches writing, literature, and film at Big Bend Community College in the high desert of Washington State. He is married to a librarian, Libby, and has two children and a scruffy dog named Ernie.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

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Magpie Murders by  Anthony Horowitz Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
Narrator: Samantha Bond, Allan Corduner
Published by Harper Audio on June 6, 2017
Source: Purchased
Genres: Mystery
Length: 15 hrs 47 mins
Format: Audiobook
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When editor Susan Ryeland is given the manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has no reason to think it will be much different from any of his others. After working with the bestselling crime writer for years, she’s intimately familiar with his detective, Atticus Pünd, who solves mysteries disturbing sleepy English villages. An homage to queens of classic British crime such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, Alan’s traditional formula has proved hugely successful. So successful that Susan must continue to put up with his troubling behavior if she wants to keep her job.

Conway’s latest tale has Atticus Pünd investigating a murder at Pye Hall, a local manor house. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but the more Susan reads, the more she’s convinced that there is another story hidden in the pages of the manuscript: one of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition, and murder.

I should have loved Magpie Murders. It’s definitely a book for mystery readers. Not only does it have two well-plotted mysteries, it has some great quotes about the nature of mysteries and reading.

“You must know that feeling when it’s raining outside and the heating’s on and you lose yourself, utterly, in a book. You read and you read and you feel the pages slipping through your fingers until suddenly there are fewer in your right hand than there are in your left and you want to slow down but you still hurtle on towards a conclusion you can hardly bear to discover.”

“As far as I’m concerned, you can’t beat a good whodunnit: the twists & turns, the clues and the red herrings and then, finally, the satisfaction of having everything explained to you in a way that makes you kick yourself because you hadn’t seen it from the start.”

The set up is great, a novel within a novel, both murder mysteries. In the “real world,” editor Susan Ryeland is reading the manuscript for Magpie Murders, but the last chapter is missing, and as all mystery reader know, that’s when the grand denouement happens, so to not have that is incredibly frustrating. The problem is, the author, Alan Conway, is dead, an apparent suicide. Obviously, he was actually murdered and Susan becomes our amateur detective, of course almost gets killed in the process of solving the crime.

I listened to the audio and I do think having two narrators worked well, one for the manuscript and one for Susan’s portion of the story. Each did a good job and fit their part well.The problem for me is that I cared more about the “fictional” mystery than about Susan’s life and investigations. I liked the traditional English town mystery, with the investigator who is always just a step ahead, who puts all the clues and coincidences together. I was drawn into the town gossip, the secrets, the characters. Then we came to Susan’s life in London and, honestly, I was a little annoyed. Her story just wasn’t as engrossing for me. It was interesting how the “real” world mirrored Saxby-on-Avon from the manuscript, but I wish the two mysteries had been equally compelling and they just weren’t.

Edited: I wanted to add that there was an odd sound way in the background of the recording. Every time I was listening to the book until I realized what was going on, I though I heard the dog, the sound of his tags rattling. I finally realized it was the book. I can’t really put my finger on what it was, the recording equipment or something, but it wasn’t my player because it doesn’t happen with other books.

About Anthony Horowitz

Anthony Horowitz is one of the most prolific and successful writers working in the UK – and is unique for working across so many media, juggling writing books, TV series, films, plays and journalism.

Anthony has written over 40 books including the bestselling teen spy series Alex Rider, which he adapted into a movie that was released worldwide in 2006. Anthony is also an acclaimed writer for adults and was commissioned by the Conan Doyle Estate and Orion Books to write two new Sherlock Holmes novels. The House of Silk was published in November 2011 and was internationally lauded as the top title of the autumn. The sequel, Moriarty, was published in October 2014 with similar success. Most recently he was commissioned by the Ian Fleming Estate to write the James Bond novel Trigger Mortis, which was published on 8th September 2015.

Anthony is responsible for creating and writing some of the UK’s most beloved and successful television series, producing the first seven episodes (and the title) of Midsomer Murders. He is the writer and creator of award-winning drama series Foyle’s War. Anthony has also written other original complex dramas for ITV, particularly thrillers.

Anthony is on the board of the Old Vic Theatre. He regularly contributes to a wide variety of national newspapers and magazines on subjects ranging from politics to education. He has been a patron to East Anglia Children’s Hospices and the anti-bullying charity, Kidscape, since 2008.

Anthony was awarded an OBE for his services to literature in January 2014.

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A Voice in the Night by Andrea Camilleri

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A Voice in the Night by Andrea Camilleri A Voice in the Night by Andrea Camilleri
Narrator: Grover Gardner
Series: Commissario Montalbano #20
Published by Blackstone Audio on November 15, 2016
Source: Library
Genres: Mystery
Length: 6 hrs 18 mins
Format: Audiobook
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Montalbano investigates a robbery at a supermarket, a standard case that takes a spin when manager Guido Borsellino is later found hanging in his office. Was it a suicide? Inspector Montalbano and the coroner have their doubts, and further investigation leads to the director of a powerful local company.

Meanwhile, a girl is found brutally murdered in Giovanni Strangio's apartment - Giovanni has a flawless alibi, and it's no coincidence that Michel Strangio, president of the province, is his father. Weaving together these two crimes, Montalbano realizes that he's in a difficult spot where political power is enmeshed with the Mafia underworld.

I’ve read/listened to several Montalbano mysteries. In A Voice in the Night we’ve got several of the series standards – corrupt politicians, police who are being pressured for certain results,  good food. Montalbano is a good cop, in that he’s not in the mafia’s pocket and is not afraid to go against the politicians. He doesn’t always stick to the law, though.

Both of the mysteries have their twists and turns. I especially liked how the young woman’s murder was plotted, even though I felt bad for the boyfriend. As always, I find Salvo amusing and interesting. The title is perfect, it pulls from a pivotal part of the story, one that may not actually put Montalbano in the best light, but does highlight his need to find the real culprit, not just accept what “they” want.

I’ll definitely read more in the series, but they’re not gripping enough to buy; I always borrow them from the library. They are consistent though – light, pretty short, decent mysteries and characters who are pretty consistent over the series. I know what I’m getting when I pick up a Montalbano story and I’m rarely disappointed. I’m also rarely astounded.

About Andrea Camilleri

Andrea Camilleri (born September 6, 1925 in Porto Empedocle) is an Italian writer. He is considered one of the greatest Italian writers of both 20th and 21st centuries. Camilleri lives in Rome where he works as a TV and theatre director. About 10 million copies of his novels have been sold to date, and are becoming increasingly popular in the UK and North America.

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