Lydia Smith lives a quiet life, spent in the company of her colleagues and customers at the bookstore where she works. But when Joey Molina, a young and mysterious regular, hangs himself in the bookstore and leaves Lydia secret messages hidden in the pages of his books, her world starts to unravel.
Why did Joey do it?
What did he know?
And what does it have to do with Lydia?
Well how could I not go for this novel? Fiction about books and bookstores is like dangling a carrot in front of a rabbit so I readily gave into the temptation of buying this novel when I saw it was on sale at my local bookstore (which is sadly now closed for good), especially when I read the back flap. Thrown in the mix is a past murder mystery and a recent mystifying suicide, and the promise of hidden messages that need to be solved. This sounds like a perfect recipe to me!
Lydia is a bookseller at the Bright Ideas Bookstore. She keeps her past very much to herself, nobody knows that she was a final girl when she was only 10 years old, the only survivor of a mass murder. She feels a special affection for Joey, one of the store’s misfits – they are often non-customers but she enjoys their presence – so it is shocking that she finds him dead on the first floor. What is also shocking is the photo she finds poking out of his pocket, of her and two of her friends when she was a teenager, before the terrible events that happened to her. How did he get this photo? What were those terrible events? Why did he commit suicide?
Much to her surprise she is handed his meager possessions, mostly books, and while she’s looking through them she notices something off about them. It seems Joey used his books to leave her message and she is eager find out what he meant to tell her, if she can find out how to decipher the clues.
I enjoyed the way the author managed to hide messages in the books and while I could only imagine how it would work I could read the message the way she found it in the books, so I still had part of the fun.
Of course there’s also the photo, the link to her past. I enjoyed the gradual reveal of Lydia’s memories and finding out more about that fatal day until finally the horrific scene is played out. It still didn’t explain the current events though. It took until the last part of the novel to discover how Joey’s tied into this and I have to say that I’m impressed with the twists and turns, which ultimately gave him the reason to take his own life.
The only remarks I could make about this story is that I didn’t understand why she wasn’t talking to her father, if it was to create mystery and suspicion towards him at the start it didn’t have the intended effect on me. Her relationship with David also didn’t hold any value to me and I don’t know why he was added, she could have been single just as well. Was it only to demonstrate how hard she found it to trust someone? It certainly felt hollow to me and David never became an interesting character. Other than those minor notes I think this is a very enjoyable debut novel. It starts off as a bit quirky but it develops into a far darker and complex story then I expected so I was pleasantly surprised it was so engrossing. I wouldn’t mind at all reading another novel by this author.
I bought a paperback of this novel. This is my honest opinion.