“Dead West” by Matt Goldman; Forge (320 pages, $26.99)
Hollywood — code for the movie industry, with its shallowness, backstabbers and oh-so-many divas — has been the background for many solid mysteries. But Hollywood also lends itself to business strategies, investments and creative people.
It’s the business side and the accompanying intrigue that Matt Goldman concentrates on in “Dead West,” his fourth highly entertaining mystery about Minneapolis private investigator Nils Shapiro.
While Nils enjoys a good movie, he had no desire to visit Los Angeles until he is hired by wealthy Beverly Mayer to check on her grown grandson, Ebben, who inherited more than $50 million. The domineering Beverly believes Ebben is squandering his fortune in the movie business, even though she has no control over what her 30-year-old grandson does with his time or money. Ebben, whose fiancée recently died, is indeed involved in the movie business, trying to launch a creative-focused studio.
But Nils is impressed with the intelligent Ebben, who has invested little of his own money while raising millions from investors. Ebben also has little regard for his imperious grandmother, who continues to bully and disrespect his parents and be hateful to him. Her attitude is one reason Ebben moved to California. The perceptive Nils quickly suspects Ebben’s fiancée was murdered, and that Ebben was the real target. Nils delves into the intricacies of making movies, including endless meetings, intrusive agents and more than a few criminals.
Goldman wisely keeps the focus on Nils’s sleuthing skills and the myriad characters in “Dead West.” This is not a story about the cult of the celebrity or movie gossip — just a well-plotted detective story with plenty of surprising twists. Goldman knows very well what goes on behind the scenes of filmmaking. Goldman won an Emmy Award for his work on “Seinfeld” and also wrote for the TV series “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.”
Goldman continues to explore Nils’ persona and the changes this character has gone through. The Nils of “Dead West” is not the same Nils that Goldman presented in “Gone To Dust,” the series debut.
Nils’ evolution in “Dead West” should inspire more stories about this cerebral detective.
©2020 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)