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Switched identities and a pair of decades old unsolved murders

Switcheroo: A Gideon Oliver Mystery

by Aaron Elkins

Thomas & Mercer

Mystery & Thrillers

Pub Date: February 16, 2016


Switcheroo is not your garden variety cozy mystery. It is a unique hybrid that falls somewhere between a cozy and a procedural. Like a cozy, there is little violence and a more relaxed atmosphere, like a procedural the lead (Gideon Oliver) is a professional (a forensic anthropologist) who applies scientific methods systematically to solve crimes.

As a forensic anthropologist, Gideon Oliver’s speciality is drawing information from old bones. This ability is particularly useful in solving cold cases. But there are always those willing to kill to keep the secrets of the past hidden.

Switcheroo starts with an intriguing premise. An affluent couple convinces their poor relatives who are evacuating to the mainland to take their son, a weaker boy who may not survive the deprivations of occupation, in the place of their own. An agreement was sworn, money exchanged hands, and after the end of the war, the boys were returned to their respective families. Years later, the young men are suspected of embezzlement and other nefarious business dealings. They disappear, but not long after, one is discovered dead, shot through the heart. The other is suspected of the murder, but then his bones are found in the tar pit along with those of a coconspirator. Gideon, his wife, and his friend John are invited to Jersey to view the remains and shed some light on the past.

Aaron Elkins does a superb job in making forensic anthropology understandable for the lay reader. The science is fascinating, and bones do not have the same “ick” factor that fresh bodies do. Gideon and Julia have a wonderful, mutually supportive relationship that is a joy to observe. I also liked DCI Clapper, who may not be the most politic in his wording, but who appreciates good sense and dedication regardless of sex, background, or color.

Switcheroo makes for a refreshing change from garden variety cozies. The blend of cold case, science, and present crime make for a delectable read.


I received a copy of Switcheroo from the publisher and in exchange for an honest review.



The Skeleton Detective is back.

A cold case dating from the 1960s draws forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver to the Channel Islands decades later to shine a light on the mysterious connection between two men who died there on the same night.

Swapped as young boys by their fathers during the Nazi occupation, wealthy Roddy Carlisle and middle-class George Skinner had some readjusting to do after the war ended—but their lives remained linked through work, trouble with the law, and finally, it would seem, through murder.

Nobody expects that Gideon’s modern-day investigation will turn up fresh bodies. But old bones tell many tales, and the Skeleton Detective has to be at his sharpest to piece together the truth before the body count mounts still higher.

Declared “a series that never disappoints” by the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Gideon Oliver mystery series is highly recommended for fans of Agatha Christie and Kathy Reichs.

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