Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan
I will freely admit, I read this book because I liked the title- it sounds like a lovely story. Well, I didn't heed the old admonition to not judge a book by it's cover, or it's title, and this book was fabulous- but not at all what I expected. Lydia, a clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore in downtown Denver, makes the harrowing discovery of one of her patrons hanged to death in the rows of books upon closing up one night. Even more harrowing is the discovery of a picture of herself as a girl, a picture she has never seen before, in his pocket. She then eerily learns that he bequeathed the contents of his apartment to her, and as she goes through his belongings, she discovers he has carefully cut words our of the pages of books, leaving holes behind, that when matched up with other books, reveal codified messages to her. Most people don't know that Lydia is/was Little Lydia, a girl made famous by being the only surviving member of a vicious murder at her friend's house during a sleepover one night by a man that the news called The Hammerman, who was never caught. As Lydia tries to solve the mystery of the encoded messages left to her, and why this boy in the bookstore had a picture of her as a child, she discovers much about herself, her father, her friend that saw her through the hard times, and what she has tried to block out over the years. She also discovers the identity of The Hammerman, and is finally able to come to a place of closure over the horrific event of her childhood. This book is gripping, although I did skip over some of the very graphic, brutal description of The Hammerman's murders. It was fascinating, with a plot perfectly planned out, thorough, rich, and deep. It's hard to put down, yet also, to my sensitive, tender heart, a little nauseating, so I have a bit of a hard time recommending it as a "good" book, but it certainly is a well-crafted, well-written, engaging novel, and I can see why it has received such critical acclaim. If you enjoy thrillers, this novel should be on your to-read list.