Duets 77

The Misconception

Bait & Switch
by Darlene Gardner
(Dorchester, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-505-52521-6
So many characters, so few signs of intelligence. If they made this book into a movie, they’d have to call it Night of the Living Brain-dead.

It’s been six months since policeman Grant (Mitch) Mitchell has seen his twin, Cary. That’s why, when his irresponsible brother shows up at 3:00 am, Mitch knows it means trouble.

Cary has gotten on the bad side of a bookie, money launderer and all-round unpleasant character named Flash Gorman by placing, and losing, a $30,000 bet. He’s paid part of it off (by stealing from the till in Gorman’s strip club where he bartends), but time is running out. Cary wants just enough money from Mitch to leave town and go into hiding.

Instead, Mitch thinks Cary should to return to Charleston, gather information on Gorman’s illegal activities, then turn him in. This is not an assignment Cary is interested in, but he thinks it’d be perfect for a straight arrow like … Mitch (who, along with everyone else in the family, has been covering for Cary since they were kids).

In Charleston, Mitch discovers quite a few little details that Cary didn’t bother to tell him. On his first morning he’s awakened by Peyton McDowell, who has halted the horse-drawn tour she’s giving to pound on Cary’s door and yell at her errant boyfriend in front of a carriage-load of customers. Mitch thinks Peyton is “the most desirable woman he had ever seen.” Which is generous of him considering that her “eyes were a smidgen too close together, her nose a hair too long and her mouth centimeters too wide.” (Does the author actually know how big a centimeter is?)

While Mitch is ogling Cary’s girlfriend, Cary is in Key West where he runs into Lizabeth Drinkwater. Lizabeth mistakes Cary for Mitch, on whom she had a crush on in high school. Lizabeth just knows that the man she thinks is Mitch won’t be interested in her because she’s a boring research librarian so, when Cary naturally doesn’t recognize her (the brothers went to different high schools) she decides to pose as “Leeza,” a sophisticated femme fatale.

In a genre jammed with idiotic characters practicing arrant stupidity in the name of “comedy,” I don’t think I’ve ever met four more annoying characters than Mitch, Cary, Peyton and “Leeza.”

Neither brother can remember for more than two minutes in a row that he’s posing as the other, which I believe is supposed to be funny. This must be the reason each spends so much timing reminding himself that, oh yes, people think they’re talking to and/or kissing his brother. Enhancing tedium and confusion, Grant, posing as Cary, tells everyone to call him Mitch, and Leeza calls Cary “Grant” because she doesn’t know she’s supposed to call him Mitch. I guess the author thought this would be less confusing.

Both brothers think they’re not doing anything so terrible as long as they don’t sleep with the women they’re lying to. But Mitch finds he must sleep with Peyton, otherwise she’ll break up with Cary, and Cary must sleep with “Leeza” because, well, because he wants to. He thinks it’s great that she’s stuck on his brother - it means the twin who’s actually with her will get lucky. In spite of Cary’s work with kids, which I believe is supposed to show he’s really good at heart, the guy’s a slimeball and his miraculous redemption is considerably less than convincing.

Leeza, the world’s most embarrassing and inept siren, which I believe is supposed to be funny, “tinkles” her laugh, tosses her hair and calls Cary “dahling.” She also blithers trivia when she gets nervous. On top of everything else, this ridiculous caricature will offend librarians everywhere.

Add Peyton, who forgives call-me-Mitch for every insulting transgression because he’s so sexy, and you’ve got four characters who set my teeth on edge with almost every thought and word. The only time I laughed was when Mitch found himself annoyed by the “peeling” of Cary’s car phone. (Is that the kind you get when you work in a strip club?)

There’s much more - so if you think it’s hilarious to have your intelligence insulted, you’ll love this book.

--Judi McKee

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