The focus of my blog is to review book series and not individual novels, but writers are going to continue writing novels within a series even after I have done my review, so I plan on reviewing the individual novels as they come into circulation. Aaron Elkins just recently added book #18, Switcheroo, to the Gideon Oliver series.
The first Gideon Oliver novel, The Fellowship of Fear, came out in 1982 which would have made me a junior in college. Now in my AARP years, I have read the latest installment to the Gideon Oliver series, Switcheroo, and even though I have aged, Gideon Oliver has not. Elkins originally started the series as a thriller with Gideon’s life always in jeopardy, but about half way into the series it changed over to being a cozy mystery. I am not really a fan of cozy mysteries but I make an exception for the Gideon Oliver series because I love to hear about the forensic physical anthropological findings that Gideon finds and there is plenty of that in Switcheroo.
The story begins just before the occupation of the Channel Island of Jersey by the Nazis in 1940. Mass evacuation of the islands were occurring, but only a limited number of the inhabitants could be evacuated. Which leads us to Howard Carlisle, a wealthy citizen of the Island of Jersey, who out of pride, chose to stay behind instead of evacuating to England. However, he didn’t take into consideration his family members especially his young two year old son, Roddy, who was not of good health. Unfortunately Carlisle realized too late that the boy would most likely not survive the hardships of the occupation. Desperate to get Roddy on the ship to England, he made a deal with his brother-in-law, William ‘Willie’ Skinner, to swap his son Roddy with Skinner’s two year old son, George. To keep the swap under wraps, Roddy would take on the identity of George and George the identity of Roddy until the war ended and they could hopefully make the switch back.
Both Roddy and George survived and even worked closely with each other over the years until the early 1960s when both men turned up suspiciously dead. How both men died was unclear and a cold case was shelved away. Now we come to present day with Gideon Oliver receiving a request from Roddy’s son, Rafe, to inspect the supposed bones of his father to see if Oliver could get any insights into a crime that happened over fifty years ago. Of course, when Gideon comes on the scene, a whole can of worms is opened.
Overall, this is a fun cozy mystery with a bit of history and some interesting forensics thrown in to boot. Gideon is once again joined by his lovely wife, Julie, and FBI agent, John Lau, who fans of the series will recognize from many of the previous novels. I do have to warn you though, if you are on a diet, BEWARE, as there is a whole lot of discussion on the various culinary delicacies being ingested by our sleuthing friends. Being calorie deprived myself these days, I found it sometimes difficult to get past these passages. For the most part this is a standalone novel, but if you would like more background on Gideon’s relationship with John Lau read the Fellowship of Fear and if you are interested in how Julie hooked up with Gideon, check out The Dark Place.
Switcheroo will be released to the public on February 16, 2016
I would like to thank NetGalley for my Advance Reader Copy of Switcheroo.
To learn more about the series check out a review of the Gideon Oliver Series.