“The Shallows”

“The Shallows” by Matt Goldman is book three in the “Nils Shapiro” series, but new readers will immediately be drawn into the story, and any background information needed is included seamlessly as a natural part of the action. The story unfolds in a first person narrative by Nils Shapiro. He is a private investigator and shares his philosophy, “I never trust someone with a clean and neat desk.”

When Robin Rabinowitz finds the body of her husband in Minnesota’s Christmas Lake tied up like a fish, hook and all, she becomes the prime suspect in his murder, and Shapiro get the call. He conducts business his way, and gets right to the point. “Why didn’t you untie the stringer from the dock, then pull your husband up on shore? Oh, and, Mrs. Rabinowitz, I’m going to need a five-thousand-dollar retainer if you want me to work for you.”

He is worth the money, and a few seconds later his phone confirms that Stone Arch Investigations has received the five thousand dollar payment. He also proposes an unusual investigative strategy, “You have two choices. I cannot work for you or work for you and tell people I’m not. Your decision. And you need to make it right now.”

Readers follow along as Shapiro uncovers layer upon layer of deception. No one has secrets that remain hidden for long, not with the internet.  He shares what he thinks and talks directly to readers. ”I forgive them certain transgressions.” The story is about the characters, the people, the good ones, the bad ones, and those who are questionable. Unfortunately, Rabinowitz is not the only murder victim, and things quickly get a lot more complicated. However, no matter what happens to whom, Shapiro keeps billing hours, “Well, they’re not hiding their checkbook,”

Goldman creates a vivid sense of place, the serene: “I followed him up from the lake and toward the house on a path of crushed limestone. The white-blue LED floods revealed a lawn of deep green. Hydrangeas and lilies grew in carved-out planting beds topped with mulched cedar. It smelled fresh and good. The frogs and crickets couldn’t stop singing about it.”

And in contrast, the antiseptic: “We gathered around a big table in a small room at FBI headquarters in Brooklyn Center. The table was so big in comparison to the room you could barely get around it without walking sideways, as if you were traversing a narrow ledge, your back to the wall.”

“The Shallows” is a story with layers of conspiracy, deception, political intrigue, and personal complications. I was given a review copy of “The Shallows” by Matt Goldman, Forge Books, and Macmillan Publishers. It is an absorbing story for regular fans, and a compelling introduction to Nils Shapiro for new readers.