Author Matt Goldman is an Emmy Award-winning television writer who has written for Seinfeld, Ellen, The New Adventures of Old Christine, and Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. He is also a New York Times-bestselling author who has been nominated for the Shamus Award and the Nero Award for the best novels in the mystery genre.
Goldman has enthralled mystery readers with his four-book Nils Shapiro series, which follows a Minneapolis private detective as he investigates dark coverups, webs of secrets, and countless murders using the author's clever wit and captivating characters. In recent years, Goldman has written suspenseful standalone novels, the first of which is Carolina Moonset—a family drama about hidden secrets resurfacing after a man begins suffering from dementia—and has recently brought us his newest standalone: A Good Family.
A Good Family is an emotional mystery thriller that introduces readers to Katie Kuhlmann, a woman who society would assume is perfectly content since she has everything most people aspire to: a steady career, a stunning house, well-behaved kids, and a husband.
However, her husband, Jack, has recently been acting irritable and distant. He’s always disappearing from their house in their prestigious Country Club neighborhood in Minnesota, and when he is at home, he’s continuously distracted by his laptop or phone while blaming work for his behavior.
But Katie knows her husband and suspects that there is something else going on, something much darker than what Jack is willing to admit. When their mutual friend, Adam "Bagman" Ross, who was ultimately responsible for the two meeting and falling in love in college, asks if he could stay in their house for a while, Jack welcomes him with open arms. Yet Adam may also have some dangerous secrets of his own. Something is wrong, and Katie will do what she must to figure out what it is and protect the life she has created for herself and her family.
If you’re curious about uncovering the darkness that can be hiding within “picture-perfect” nuclear families, then you can read an excerpt from A Good Family below for a sneak peek and buy the book today!
Read an excerpt of A Good Family—then purchase the book!
This, thought Katie. This is what it’s all about. Family time. Sitting in the nook they’d built for these moments, informal and intimate, just the four of them isolated from the outside world in a cocoon of dark walnut benches and matching table. Filament-bulb sconces cast their warm glow against a wall of white beadboard. And the aroma of cooking drew them from bedrooms and basement along with Katie’s texts on the family chat. Dinner’s ready! Wash your hands, please! The nook created a sanctuary for conversation. Tell me about your day. Children’s questions, jokes, teachable moments, and a sharing of opinions crisscrossed to form the emotional scaffolding called family that would support them in good times and bad. That was the idea, anyway.
“Nice job, Kaleb.” This from Elin, a twelve-year-old vegetarian who trained herself for tween warfare by using her eight-year-old brother like an axe uses a sharpening stone. “You’re eating the muscles and guts of cute animals.”
“I am not. Mom, tell her I’m not.”
“Well,” said Katie, “you’re not eating the guts. I promise.”
Kaleb took that as a victory. Elin rolled her eyes and said, “Dad. Tell him.”
Katie’s husband, Jack, wasn’t listening. He was lost in a spreadsheet on his laptop.
“No devices at the dinner table, Dad,” said Elin in a voice both scolding and mocking since no devices at the dinner table was a rule laid down by Jack.
“Sorry, honey,” said Jack. “Something’s blowing up at work.”
Kaleb leaned over and looked at his father’s screen. “Whoa! That’s a lot of numbers. Do you have to add all those up?”
Katie said, “Since when do you go over spreadsheets, Jack? You have people for that.”
Jack looked at Katie over the screen of his laptop. His mouth was hidden but his eyes said back off. He was so touchy lately when it came to work. When it came to everything, really. Jack had his dream house now—he was supposed to be happy. Not angry. Not anxious. Not short with his wife. He had never given her a look like that before. And the kids had a point. No devices at the dinner table included Jack’s devices, so Katie said to him what she often said to the kids. “It’s okay to feel grumpy. It’s okay to feel tired. It is not okay to be rude.”
Jack dropped his eyes back to his spreadsheet, and Kaleb said, “Them’s the rules, Dad.”
“Yep,” said Elin. “Them’s the rules.”
Jack sighed and shut his computer.
Imperfections aside, thought Katie, this was a moment for which they’d built the nook. It was the only element of the addition/remodel that Katie had insisted upon. “I want a nook in the kitchen for family time,” she’d told Jack. “Like a booth in a restaurant for just the four of us.” The addition/remodel itself was Jack’s baby. He found the architect, the contractor, oversaw the budget, stopped by the house every day during construction. To keep his wife happy, one might say, or to keep her from weighing in on the rest of the project, another might say, Jack obliged her the nook.
The Kuhlmanns lived in Edina, Minnesota, in a neighborhood called Country Club on a street called Browndale in a house called perfect by friends and neighbors and drivers-by. Country Club had large homes best described as stately and lawns that looked like they’d all been mowed on the same day and, in the winter, sidewalks so free of snow and ice you’d think elves shoveled in the dead of night. Jack’s architect and interior decorator and landscape designer worked with him to create a home so inviting you had to wonder who hadn’t walked through to see the honed marble countertops and family photos, the five-panel doors and kids’ artwork on the refrigerator, the blown-glass light fixtures and state-of-the-art laundry room complete with a custom-built wooden cage for the family’s dirty clothes.
Two years ago Jack gave himself an obscene bonus after a fiscal year when his company developed a sodium-sulfur battery that solved two problems that had prevented sodium-sulfur batteries from powering electric vehicles. Jack’s company eliminated the battery’s corrosiveness and reduced its operating temperature from 300 degrees to 200 degrees, which is in line with the running temperature of most combustion engines. The big plus of making batteries from sodium and sulfur is that, unlike lithium and cobalt, the elements are plentiful and don’t need to be purchased from countries that do terrible things to good people.
The new sodium-sulfur battery attracted huge investment in Jack’s company from automobile manufacturers, public utilities, and organizations all over the world who had declared war on fossil fuels and human rights abuses. Jack’s company raised over $1.2 billion, and the battery wasn’t even on the market yet. But the money poured in and some of it built the house on Browndale. When they moved back in Jack said, “The only way I’m moving out of this house is when I’m carried out and loaded into a hearse.”
Jack was proud of his new abode and he felt especially excited to show it off because that evening, after nook time with the family, the house would fill with neighborhood couples for book club—the first book club the Kuhlmanns would host since the remodel/addition.
Proud is not the word to describe how Katie felt about the house. Better words would be undeserving, embarrassed, ashamed even, because Katie Kuhlmann did not grow up with wealth. She married into a life of privilege, which made her life a hell of a lot easier for her than it was for most people. She worked hard as a mother and at her job at General Mills but this kind of extravagance was gifted from Jack, who grew up with old money, his family making their fortune in lumber when Minnesota was still just a territory. Jack built the remodel/addition as a fortress to preserve that gift, to keep the privilege inside and random cruelty of life outside.
Katie first saw Jack at a University of Minnesota hockey game. She sat by herself in the student section wearing a white angora stocking hat. Two dark braids fell from her hat. She wore a powder blue turtleneck sweater out of which hung a silver pendant that looked like a small snowflake, and her lips shined like wet ice. When she stood to cheer Minnesota’s first goal, Jack involuntarily said, “Who is that?”
He said these words to no one, but they were heard by Bagman, aka Adam Ross, who had earned his nickname after getting so drunk at a University of Minnesota football game that he passed out before the first half, and Jack and the guys put a paper bag over his head and left him that way for the remainder of the game.
Bagman disappeared down the concourse. Ten minutes later he emerged carrying three beers in a cardboard carrying tote. He approached Katie and handed her one of the beers then pointed to Jack. Katie held up her beer and mouthed thank you. By the end of the game, Katie and Jack had made a date for the following Saturday night.
* * *
“Who’s ready for ice cream?” said Katie. She slid out of the nook and removed two bowls from the cupboard and ice cream from the freezer and, while she scooped, watched her husband violate the sanctity of the nook by reopening his laptop while his children, his precious children, their precious children, sat unobserved and ignored as if they were decorative plastic fruit.
“What’s happening at work, Jack?” said Katie.
“Nothing. It’ll blow over.”
“Really? Because you look like you’re about to throw up.”
“Yuck!” said Kaleb. “I’m getting out of here!”
“I am not going to throw up,” said Jack. “I just have to iron out a few hiccups.”
“You can’t iron hiccups,” said Elin. “You iron wrinkles. You get rid of hiccups by holding your breath or by getting them scared out of you like this: Boo!!!!!!!!!!!”
Kaleb jerked and knocked over his juice glass. Jack yanked his precious laptop out of the wet, slammed it shut, slid out of the nook, and stormed out of the kitchen. And then the thought came—it came so clearly Katie wondered if she’d said it out loud.
Jack’s hiding something. My husband is hiding something from me.