Gone To Dust, A Novel
Macmillan Publishing Group, LLC
If the litmus test for a compelling murder mystery is not being able to put a book down, Matt Goldman’s first novel, Gone To Dust, is quite the success and already a New York Times Best Seller. Aided by a Hurricane Florence addled weekend that encouraged indoor activity, I started and finished Goldman’s wellcrafted 300-page book in two sittings. Gone To Dust is not only a great title, but features a protagonist in Nils Shapiro who is entertaining and clever while possessing vulnerabilities that make him a sympathetic character.
The novel’s mystery centers around a young divorcee who is found murdered in her bed with no signs of struggle or forced entry into her home. The body and much of her house are covered in some sort of dust—apparently to hide incriminating evidence. Shapiro, as a private detective hired by the resource-challenged local police department in Edina, Minnesota, focuses his investigation on friends, lovers, and acquaintances of the victim—anyone whom the victim wouldn’t have felt threatened by. That is where the fun begins.
Goldman introduces numerous appropriately developed characters as we find out more about the victim’s life and loves. Because the novel takes place in the town in which Detective Shapiro grew up, we learn not only about the victim’s background, but we also discover the characters and life twists that leave Shapiro divorced, cynical, and living in what he affectionately calls, “The Sh*thole.” Despite, or maybe because of his less than perfect life, we like Nils Shapiro and find him easy to root for. He is funny, sarcastic, and seemingly very attractive to the opposite sex.
Goldman’s leading man says at one early point in the novel, “I look back on a handful of moments in my life as if they were traffic circles. I didn’t know I was driving into one, but once I realized I had, it was too late. Whichever direction I drove out would send me in a direction I hadn’t intended to go.”
The author knew exactly where he was going with this book. Like his main character, Goldman grew up in Minnesota, which allowed for great familiarity in his descriptive settings. My only criticism would be that the setting descriptions were sometimes too detailed. This story meets the test for plausibility and features creative and flowing dialogue that pulls the reader along and has earned Goldman a Writer’s Guild Award nomination.
Goldman will be in Hampton Roads for the Lee and Bernard Jaffe Jewish Book Festival in November. While a rookie novelist, Goldman is no neophyte as a writer. He is an Emmy Award winning television writer who has worked on big-time programs such as Seinfeld, Ellen and The New Adventures of Old Christine. Already a bona fide script and joke writer, Goldman acquits himself well as a novelist and could very well develop a following for his Detective Nils Shapiro character. It would be easy to envision Gone To Dust made into a compelling movie on the big screen. An evening with Goldman during the Book Festival will be fun and compelling as well.
Matt Goldman will be at the Sandler Family Campus on Wednesday, November 7 at 7:30 pm as a guest author during the Lee and Bernard Jaffe Family Jewish Book Festival.
Gone to Dust: A Novel is a Book Club Pick. To register a book club, contact Callah Terkeltaub at firstname.lastname@example.org or 321-2331.
Jay Klebanoff is a former writer for the Montgomery County Record and a past president of United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.