Death Match, by Lincoln Child
(photo from Amazon.com)
(photo from Amazon.com)
The cover does not appeal to me, nor does the title, and also I think more than 95% of the books I read are by women because I generally don't identify with either the writing style or the subject matter of male authors. I would not have even picked this book up to skim the inner flap, is what I am telling you.
Furthermore, the book has flaws. There is a time or two when the protagonist does something and I think, "It is 100% clear he should be doing something different, so this is obviously just a way for the author to give us information he wants us to have and/or force the plot into a particular shape." And there are some other places where, afterward or at the time, I thought, "But why would they....?" and "But wouldn't they...?" and "Wait, but if it was the night before, the child would have been..." and "Surely any sensible person would have realized that the information could have been...?" and "But couldn't he have just NOT set it up that way?" and "Well, and it would have to cost WAY MORE than that."
But WHATEVER, because the PREMISE is one of the most lock-on fascinating ones I've heard of in a long time. And you might THINK I am spoiling it when I tell you the plot, but I am not: I will tell you what my mother told me when I thought SHE was spoiling it, but then when I read the book I thought no, she wasn't.
The premise is that there is a dating service that has a 100% success rate: it costs $25,000 PER PERSON to join, but there's a full money-back guarantee and no one has ever used it---or even needed to be matched a second time because the first one didn't work out. (The cynical reader might notice that every single person who uses this agency is not only attractive and intelligent and emotionally/mentally-well-balanced, but also marvelously multi-talented, and with many interesting interests. We will not spend too much time, however, wondering about couples who are kind of dim and dull; we will just assume they didn't make for as good reading.) Matched couples are remarkably, blissfully happy. As one or two of the employees at the agency says, people left on their own choose each other for the wrong reasons and eliminate potential partners for the wrong reasons; the agency matches people who at first think the match was a total mistake, and then within minutes see the perfection of it.
Then the couples start committing joint suicide, and a psychologist/detective is called in to find out what is going on. The book is not only his attempt to figure things out, but also lots of interesting discussion about how the agency works, and the tests they use to establish compatibility.
***SLIGHT SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO LIKE TO BE PREPARED FOR UPSETTING SCENES INVOLVING CHILDREN***
The opening scene is a little traumatic, because a small child (old enough to sit in a high chair, not old enough to speak) has SEEN her parents kill themselves. But we don't join the scene until it's over (we just figure out that she would have had to have seen it), and the child is safe and unharmed and of course too young to really know what's happened. In another scene, it is mentioned that one of the women who committed suicide was pregnant.
***END SLIGHT SPOILERS***
A potential downside of this book is you may find yourself looking sideways at your significant other, wondering if you chose him/her for the wrong reasons and if you are not in fact particularly compatible. One character in the book says that even though he's had a long and happy marriage with his wife, he would have cut off his own arm to have a relationship like the one he's seen of a couple matched by the dating service. Food for thought, and not necessarily a meal that sits well. But it has been a long time since I had to take a book to another room because I HAD to keep reading it and couldn't tolerate any distractions at all.