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Gone to Dust

Review

Gone to Dust

I will confess to having some initial misgivings before picking up GONE TO DUST, the brilliant debut mystery novel by Matt Goldman. My concern arose from my knowledge that Goldman has journeyman experience writing TV situation comedies, which I tend to reflexively avoid. I feared that this book would be a mashup of a couple of series that shall remain nameless, which would be fine; I just wouldn’t be all that interested in it.

How wrong I was! GONE TO DUST is one of those books, a novel that, after staying up all night to finish it, I was recommending to my friends and acquaintances in emails and texts. Its interest should not be limited to those fond of detective novels; anyone who appreciates good, solid writing, plotting and character development will want to read it.

"GONE TO DUST is simply terrific. It is perfectly paced, complex with being complicated, and complete in itself while leaving the reader wanting more. I was reminded in some spots of Raymond Chandler, in others of Robert B. Parker."

GONE TO DUST is narrated in the first person by Nils Shapiro, a former law enforcement officer turned private detective who practices his trade in the Minneapolis area. The book is set in the cold and dark days of Minnesota in January, with always-present snow supplying anything but a cheery backdrop to the story within. Nils is brought into a murder case as a consultant by Anders Ellegaard, a former colleague who is with the police department of Edina, a suburb of Minneapolis. The victim is Maggie Somerville, a divorced mother of two. The setting is as unique as one is likely to encounter in the real or fictitious world. The doer has emptied what appears to be the contents of hundreds of vacuum cleaner bags at the crime scene --- Maggie’s bedroom --- and throughout the house, all but obliterating the chance of finding any trace evidence of him or her. The magnitude of such an effort indicates premeditation and ordered planning. Even if the police have an idea as to who might have committed the crime, how will they prove it?

Nils is nothing if not a dogged investigator, and even as he struggles to get over a failed marriage to a woman who is not quite absent from his life, he is able to focus on what slim leads he has. He begins with the victim’s ex-husband and her current boyfriend, the latter of whom is a former acquaintance of his, a womanizer who apparently was not in the same stage of the relationship as the late victim was. Even more interesting, though, is a cell phone number that ultimately comes back to a young woman with whom Maggie had developed a deep friendship, and perhaps something more. Nils finds himself attracted to her, even as he tries to resist her obvious attention. The truth about Maggie, her erstwhile boyfriend and the young lady becomes more complicated as he is unexpectedly warned off of one of the suspects by a high-powered agency. But Nils wants to see justice done and isn’t about to stop until he gets what he wants, no matter where the evidence leads.

GONE TO DUST is simply terrific. It is perfectly paced, complex with being complicated, and complete in itself while leaving the reader wanting more. I was reminded in some spots of Raymond Chandler, in others of Robert B. Parker. Nils Shapiro is funny --- and I mean laugh-out-loud funny --- without being comedic. He displays an attitude somewhat reminiscent of Robert De Niro’s Jack Walsh in Midnight Run --- serious but able to lampoon authority figures when they get in his way. I wanted more of him, and Goldman, as soon as I read the last page, wishing it was the 20th book in a series that I had just discovered instead of the first, so that I could go back and read the other 19 while waiting for the next one. That said, I am grateful for this volume and the promise of more.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 18, 2017

Gone to Dust
by Matt Goldman

  • Publication Date: August 15, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books
  • ISBN-10: 0765391287
  • ISBN-13: 9780765391285