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Dead West


Dead West

Matt Goldman is not a household name yet, but he has been steadily building a reputation over the past several years as a solid and respectable author on the strength of his Nils Shapiro series.

Nils is a Minneapolis private investigator who is the co-owner of a strategically growing firm, in which he does the majority of the street work, as opposed to managing the office and crunching the numbers. Part of the reason for this particular assignment of duties is that he has a unique talent: the ability to make calculations, the results of which are initially manifested emotionally --- call it a hunch, if you will --- before his consciousness catches up. To put it another way, he knows something before he figures out how he got there. One might call it a form of confirmation bias, except that Nils is almost always right, which is quite helpful in DEAD WEST.

"Goldman is not necessarily a literary writer, but he is an outstanding storyteller who creates memorable images while spinning simple beginnings into complex but comprehensible endings."

Goldman transplants Nils from the familiar territory of Minnesota to southern California, a place that could not be more alien or different to him. The move is occasioned by an elderly and wealthy client named Beverly Meyer, who has some doubts about her grandson, Ebben. She controls the purse strings on the family trust with iron fingers and is concerned that Ebben, who is in Hollywood and involved in the film industry, is a wasteling.

Matters are complicated by the recent death, apparently by natural causes, of Ebben’s fiancée, Juliana. Beverly wants Nils to travel to Hollywood and find out what Ebben is up to. He agrees to the assignment, bringing along his friend and sidekick, Jameson White, who is still reeling from a professional tragedy that entered into the personal realm. Jameson is from southern California and knows his way around.

Nils is also hoping that getting Jameson out of Minnesota and back to the Los Angeles area will bring him out of his emotional shell. Almost from the moment his plane lands, Nils begins to compare the traffic, weather, buildings and people of Hollywood and L.A. with those of Minneapolis. These observations are quite astute; given that they are parceled out in dribs and drabs throughout the narrative, they are worth the price of admission all by themselves. However, Nils is there on business and makes contact immediately with Ebben at a memorial service arranged for Juliana.

Nils can’t help but like Ebben, who seems to be a decent sort and is hardly racing through his trust fund monies to get into the movie business. But Nils' peculiar talent warns him that Juliana, rather than dying naturally, was murdered. He launches an investigation, even as Jameson disappears on a folly of his own and cannot be found, at least initially. It develops that Jameson has a couple of secrets of his own, but so does just about everyone in DEAD WEST, including a mysterious and dangerous one-eyed eastern European tough guy who talks like... Well, I’m not going to tell you that, as Goldman’s description of it is one of the best lines in the book.

There is violence, humor, some complexity and a satisfying ending to be had here, and hopefully more is to come.

Nils Shapiro is a terrific protagonist created by a masterful author. Goldman is not necessarily a literary writer, but he is an outstanding storyteller who creates memorable images while spinning simple beginnings into complex but comprehensible endings. Each of the four books in this series can be read on their own, which you certainly will want to do after polishing off DEAD WEST.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 7, 2020

Dead West
by Matt Goldman

  • Publication Date: August 4, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250191343
  • ISBN-13: 9781250191342