Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan [in Library Journal]
Lydia and Raj were childhood best friends. Then Carol – who, at 10, was already an established troublemaker – makes Raj a third wheel, at least until she’s brutally murdered with her parents. Lydia, in Carol’s house that night for a sleepover, survives by hiding under the kitchen sink.
Two decades later, Lydia faces another horrific death – the suicide of one of the regular patrons of the Bright Ideas Bookstore, where she’s been working. Lydia is the first to find Joey’s body; in his pocket, she discovers a photo from her tenth birthday, which also happens to include Raj and Carol. How it got there is a mystery Lydia must solve – even at the cost of shattering her quiet, carefully controlled existence. Her answers come in books – Joey’s books, in which he’s left desperate, complicated cutout messages to be meticulously, ingeniously solved.
Narrator Madeleine Maby replicates Lydia’s restrained, even eerie calm, enabling the tension of must-know whodunit and whydunit to build expertly as didn’t-see-that-coming layer after layer is revealed.
Verdict: Maby’s adroit narration provides Sullivan’s debut quite the aural boost.