Review

Death Match

by Lincoln Child



DEATH MATCH, by Lincoln Child, is a modern cautionary tale in the
spirit of Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and/or 1984
by George Orwell. Like Alice, readers plunge into a netherworld of
super computers that are fed the intimate feelings and romantic
desires of the men and women who seek help. This information, kept
shrouded in absolute secrecy, is analyzed, psychologized and then
preeminently and permanently remembered by the mega-technological
forces that were created to keep a company named "Eden" in the
matchmaking business. But unlike the matchmakers of the past, this
maven, whose job it is to "pick a perfect pair," is a computer
named "Liza," who is transmogrified and anthropomorphized into a
contemporary "Big Brother" as an acceptable ever presence. The
"creation of a perfect couple" is attained by tweaking a bit here
and a bit there with echoes of Dr. Frankenstein screaming over his
"Monster." But the happy couples live in ignorant bliss.


"Technology. Today, it's used to make our lives easier, longer, and
more comfortable. But what if technology could do something even
more profound? What if it could bring completion, bring utter
fulfillment? Imagine computer technology so advanced it could
reconstruct --- virtually --- your own personality, the essence of
what makes you unique … the inmost needs that not even you
may be aware of … a digital infrastructure so robust it
contains [your] personality construct --- with its countless unique
facets and characteristics --- along with those of many, many other
people. Imagine an artificial intelligence so profound it could
compare your construct with the multitudes of others, and --- in an
hour, a day, a week --- find that one person, that sole individual,
[who would be] your perfect match. Your ideal soul mate, uniquely
fitted by personality, background, interests, countless other
benchmarks to be your other half. No bind dates, … no singles
parties, … no evenings wasted on incompatibility. Rather, a
proprietary system of profound sophistication. This system is now.
And the company is Eden."


This is the subliminal message that repeats itself over and over
and over when prospective applicants enter the lobby of the
Manhattan skyscraper that houses Eden … it's the mantra that
attracts thousands of people who are in search of a soul mate; the
yin to their yang. Since they have already sent in their one
thousand dollar entrance fee, they are primed and ready to hear
these things overtly or covertly, and they are more than eager to
believe them. They have tried other means to find a perfect life
partner, and now, for the price of the non-refundable application
fee, they get to spend a day subjected to a battery of tests, from
simple to very complicated.


If they become eligible by meeting all of Eden's protocols, a check
in the amount of twenty-five thousand dollars will buy them a
ticket on the "love train." Their personality profiles along with
their DNA and genetic history float around in the mega-pool with
the other candidates. All of the "clients" have agreed to Eden's
strict rules of secrecy and are certain they will reap the benefits
of the scientists who have determined a specific threshold of
matching variables to declare a fit between two candidates. Every
year, more and more people pass through their doors with the hopes
and dreams of finding their perfect "other." All of this is a very
big, very secret and sometimes very dangerous business.


The "service [they are buying] does not end on the day [the couples
are brought] together. There is a mandatory follow-up session with
one of [Eden's] counselors, scheduled three months later …
and after six months; couples are requested to join encounter
groups with other Eden couples. The ideal union between two people
… [rests on the] computer intelligence [garnered from the
testing process and] compares roughly one million variables from
each of … client to those of other clients, looking for a
match."


The company's reputation has burgeoned because of its success in
fulfilling the love connection of hundreds of thousands of people.
Richard Silver --- reclusive, eccentric, who lives in the three
level penthouse atop his company's majestic building --- has
designed such tight security measures that nobody can get in or out
without triggering some kind of alarm. Teams of uniformed agents
patrol the halls and know who is where and why. For three years
everything has been more than perfect.


Then tragedy suddenly strikes. One of the "supercouples" is found
dead in their Arizona home, an "unquestionable" double suicide.
Edwin Mauchly, second-in-command, is ordered to find the best
investigator to unravel the mystery of the two deaths. What in the
world would prompt the perfect couple, living the perfect life,
clearly deeply in love and the parents of a new baby, to kill
themselves? Or were they murdered? And if it's murder, who picked
this couple and why? Robbery was not a motive; nothing in the house
was touched. Business and money were not a problem. Everything was
paid on time, and kidnapping obviously was not the motive. So a
mystery is born out of two deaths in paradise.


Enter Dr. Christopher Lash, "a psychologist specializing in family
relationships, particularly marital relationships. The book [he]
published … Congruency, was a remarkable study on the
subject." The chairman of Eden's board of directors, Mr. Lelyveld,
explains that they decided to bring Lash in to their ultra-secret
environment because "first, [they] want an impartial person to look
into the matter. And second … [his] prior occupation. Before
[he] went into private practice … [Lash was a] forensic
psychologist with the FBI, part of the Behavioral Science team
operating out of Quantico … [which means he] retain[s]
behind-the scenes access to places, people, information. [He] could
undertake such an investigation with great discretion." In order to
understand how the evaluation process works, and to use the inside
information from the dead couple's profiles, Lash enters the
program as if he were really applying for a partner. He decides to
be totally honest with all of his interrogators and is summarily
rejected. Still, he is driven to solve the current crisis among
Eden's "perfectcouples."


But Lash is nursing his own demons and personal losses as he slowly
infiltrates the inner circles of Eden as his investigation into the
lives of the dead couple progresses. The more he learns about them
the less he sees of anything that would lead them to kill
themselves. Then a second Super Couple is found dead in an obvious
suicide pact. This is the catalyst that brings Lash to the inner
sanctum, the most private and deeply hidden areas of Eden --- a
place open to a handful of people who think they have the keys to
the kingdom. But things start to move very quickly, and what
appeared to be a superbly built and functioning company is now
falling apart.


To say any more about the events in DEATH MATCH would not be fair
to readers and fans of Lincoln Child. His canny ability to grab
readers and keep their attention is a constant in the plotting,
setting, dialogue and characters. He is a master of the tease who
makes one not want to put his books down. Timely and fast-paced,
this novel may very well be a map to how couples meet, fall in love
and marry; perhaps the future is now!


   




















Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on December 29, 2010

Death Match
by Lincoln Child

  • Publication Date: October 31, 2006
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor
  • ISBN-10: 0307275566
  • ISBN-13: 9780307275561