Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Gone to Dust

Gone to Dust
by Matt Goldman
Recommended Ages: 14+

Matt Goldman is originally from Minnesota, and did stand-up comedy before he became an Emmy-winning writer for such TV sitcoms as Seinfeld and Ellen. In his debut novel, he introduces Nils Shapiro, a wisecracking, unhappily divorced, police trained private eye who lives in a one-bedroom “shitbox” just over the Minneapolis side of Edina city limits.

Edina, which rhymes with China, is here depicted as a peaceful, low-crime suburb where wealthy people live. So, when a socialite is found dead under what appears to be the contents of a hundred vacuum cleaner bags, a sleuth of Shap’s skill is indicated. The dust and whatnot seem to be a forensic countermeasure, as TV crime shows these days like to call a tactic for obscuring hair, fiber, fingerprint and DNA evidence. But not all crimes are solved by CSI. So, the Edina police calls in Shapiro, and he begins to dig for a motive to kill a woman everyone seemed to love.

The late Maggie Somerville had an ex-husband, for example – but that guy wouldn’t hurt a fly. Shap thinks her boyfriend might look good for it – but he has personal history going back to boyhood with Andrew Fine, and that may be coloring his judgment. Maggie had a mysterious relationship with a young woman with Somalian features, who is being stalked by another private eye. At one point, it even seems possible that Islamic terrorism may be a factor. These and other red herrings are dragged across the real killer’s trail, but the big reveal turns out to be so sad it’s almost funny, with a punchline of terrifying danger and healing tragedy.

I’m really interested in this Nils Shapiro character. He’s mouthy. He has attitude. His witticisms make me laugh. His relationship troubles make my heart go out to him. And his brilliance as a detective makes me believe it when, in spite of his mouthiness and attitude, he gets un-fired from the case and closes it. Also, as a former resident of the Twin Cities who actually went to school in Edina for a short time, I appreciate the local color in this book, reviving many fond memories of decades ago. I look forward to reading the sequels – Broken Ice and, due to be released in June 2019, The Shallows.

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