When one of the regular customers of the Bright Ideas Bookstore hangs himself as she is closing the store one night, Lydia is shocked to find a picture of her ten-year-old self sticking out of his pocket. Joey had been one of their regulars, part of a scruffy and mostly harmless group fondly nicknamed the BookFrogs, who spent most days reading or sleeping at the three-story Denver bookstore (which I’d guess is based on the Tattered Cover Bookstore where the author used to work.) Lydia had taken a special interest in young Joey and his shocking death threatens to bring back the dark past she’d carefully hidden from everyone for over a decade. She soon discovers that Joey had left her encrypted messages which draw her further into the mysteries of his sad past and may finally force her to revisit her own childhood nightmare.
I raced through this debut novel in just a couple of days and loved everything about it! The bookstore setting in Colorado with its quirky employees and customers first attracted my interest. Then I got caught up in Lydia’s intense and personal need to find out why Joey, whose future had seemed brighter than most of the other BookFrogs, had taken his own life. The ending of this debut novel was both shocking and satisfying and left me looking forward to the next book by Matthew J. Sullivan. Recommended for reading on the beach, in an airport or anywhere else you like to read fast-paced books with great characters.
(A special note to librarians or booksellers: It’s obvious to me that the author has spent time working in a bookstore and that his wife is a librarian. I truly appreciated his humanistic and generous depiction of the BookFrogs. I think it’s easy for us to forget the humanity of the regulars who spend their days in our midst, often invisible to the rest of society.)