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Rene Belletto. Grove/Atlantic, $21 (359pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-1437-2

French suspense writer Belletto ( Eclipse ) begins his new novel with a shocking scene--10-year-old Leonard Lacroix planning to stab his mother in bed--but the extended flashback that comprises almost all the remainder of the text doesn't live up to the opening. The boy's father, Paris psychiatrist Marc Lacroix, invents a machine that will allow him to peek into the mind of his deranged patient, serial killer Michel Zyto. But something goes wrong: Lacroix gets trapped in Zyto's body; the psychopath convinces everyone he is the doctor; and it becomes open season on the women in Marc's life. In a final twist the first chapter gives away, Zyto manages to swap shapes with Leonard. Belletto fails to make the story's scientific and psychological elements convincing, and his ability to keep the various characters distinct is sorely tested by the number of different bodies they inhabit. At its best, the writing is slick and efficient, but at its worst it equals the plot in mechanistic implausibility. (Nov.)