You can always count on Elmore Leonard. If you’re in the mood for an entertaining caper written in fluid, clean prose than Leonard’s your man. The Switch is no exception.
Mickey Dawson is increasingly dissatisfied with her life as a housewife in the tony Detroit suburbs. Her husband Frank is a boorish drunk whose miserable everywhere but the golf course and their teenage son is starting to remind her too much of his dad. She’s also angry at herself for never summoning up the courage to confront either of them or to change anything about her life. Little does she know that big changes are in store for her.
Ordell Robbie (if you’re a Tarantino fan, you may recognize the name from Jackie Brown, based on Leonard’s later novel Rum Punch) has been working on a big score, just waiting for his pal Louis Gara to finish up his jail sentence. Robbie has been making a killing ripping off appliances and fixtures and selling them dirt cheap to crooked contractors. Crooked contractors like Frank Dawson. Smarter than his associates take him for, Robbie has worked out that Frank is hiding a ton of money in a Bahamian bank account and he has a plan to take a cut for himself. With the help of Gara and an easily-manipulated white supremacist wannabe cop named Richard, he plans to kidnap Mickey and ransom her for her husband’s ill-gotten gains, knowing that Frank can’t risk going to the cops.
One of the chief joys of Leonard’s novels is that no matter how well-planned, no crime goes as planned. That’s because, as in the real world, the people who commit crimes in Leonard’s world are flawed creatures who aren’t nearly as clever as they think they are. When Robbie and Gara show up at the Dawson home to kidnap Mickey, things start going downhill almost immediately.
To say more would be to spoil too much of the fun. Though the title is singular there are multiple ‘switches’ involved in the plot, as Leonard expertly positions his characters to thwart themselves and each other through their character defects.