Stylistically superb debut that reinvents the thriller, dots every noir, and slashes every t, each note pitch-perfect as a presto from hell. After six years with Denver's Internal Affairs Division as a rat sniffing about the IAD itself, Phineas Poe has a nervous breakdown, his wife dies (leukemia? suicide? murder?), he turns himself in at a psychiatric hospital, and when he gets out six months later, he goes to a bar, picks up a prostitute--or, rather, Jude picks him up, and slips some horse tranquilizer into his Tequila Sunrise. He awakens half-frozen under reddish ice in the bathtub, a telephone by the tub and a note in his fingers saying ""if you want to live call 911."" When the emergency team lifts him out of the tub, Poe finds that Jude has performed some rough surgery on him, i.e., stolen his left kidney and stapled him back up. All this is told with great panache and subzero cool. Surprisingly, scene follows scene with no dimming of invention (Poe's jolted, for example, to learn that Jude also left a large deposit of raw heroin in his lower intestine before closing up his body). Will he be surgically manipulated again later? A killer puts a gun to Poe's head, offering him $100,000 to murder Jude and retrieve the kidney for the killer's dying brother. But Poe's so filled with liquid Valium and morphine that one can't tell whether he's tripping, as the dead walk and talk and long scenes waver in graphic dreams. Baer will almost certainly write better books than this, but probably not with such youthful verve, bare nerve-ends, or frigidly droll, dead-on metaphors. May his second be just as trim, while taking a bigger bite out of darkness and the big sleep.