Picks and Pans Review: Switch

updated 07/23/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/23/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by William Bayer

"To be a detective, he knew, was to be embroiled in an endless investigation. Cases flowed together. He solved some and stored others in the files. But the Big Case, the sum of all the others, was the mystery of human passion, and that case was never solved." Fictional New York detective Frank Janek, whom Bayer describes in that exemplary passage, is assigned to a bizarre crime: Two young women, one a schoolteacher and the other a call girl, have been decapitated and their heads switched. The same day Janek is handed that case he attends the funeral of his "rabbi" (his police force mentor), a retired cop who has "eaten his .38"—committed suicide. At the graveside, Janek meets a beautiful young photographer who turns out to be the daughter of a murdered ex-cop. That meeting leads to a second plot about police corruption. Bayer, winner of the 1982 Mystery Writers award for Peregrine, quotes the late Ross Macdonald at the beginning of Switch because this book is about events in the past that cause violence in the present (all Macdonald's novels peel away to the dark core of something rotten). Bayer's dual plots are carefully worked out, and the romance of the middle-aged hero and the sexy young woman is fanciful enough for a woman's novel. In Macdonald's world the dark evil is never explicit and therefore seems more horrible; Bayer includes every gory detail of a hideous perversion so that Switch is tainted in the same way that life's strongest dramas can be cheapened by a sensational newspaper. (Linden, $13.95)

From Our Partners