Private investigator Nils Shapiro is not happy. He’s trying (unsuccessfully) to get over his ex-wife; he doesn’t have a steady job; he hates his house. Not to mention that it’s a freezing Minneapolis winter. So when he gets a call from the Edina Police Department to help solve a bizarre murder, he realizes he’s about to experience something big. He jumps into the case, which leads him from the tony suburb of Edina down unexpected paths to childhood friends, a Somali underworld, and run-ins with the FBI.
Shapiro is already one of my favorite fictional investigators. Irreverent and self-deprecating, he looks at the world with a healthy sense of skepticism and a dry sense of humor. (Author Goldman is an Emmy-winning screenwriter and has worked on shows like Ellen and Seinfeld, so there are plenty of funny bits in the book.) Nils Shapiro is troubled, yes, but not hopelessly, self-destructively so, like a Harry Bosch or a Jesse Stone. Yet the case he has to solve does get to some pretty dark places, and that juxtaposition is what makes this book so compelling.
Gone to Dust also has great atmosphere. Goldman describes his Minneapolis setting with a confidence that can only come from having lived in a place. I’m not a Minnesotan, but the cold winter and the characters’ Midwestern sensibility felt very familiar to me. I think any Chicagoan can relate. This is a perfect mystery if you’re looking for a quick read with great humor and an interesting puzzle to solve.