Death Match

Death Match

4.0 46
by Lincoln Child

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Everyone’s looking for the perfect match, a life-long partner, and Lewis and Lindsay Thorpe have found theirs, thanks to hi-tech matchmaker Eden Inc. But when the happy couple’s life together ends in what looks like a double suicide, Eden Inc. has some explaining to do. So they hire forensic psychologist Christopher Lash to figure out what went wrong. And


Everyone’s looking for the perfect match, a life-long partner, and Lewis and Lindsay Thorpe have found theirs, thanks to hi-tech matchmaker Eden Inc. But when the happy couple’s life together ends in what looks like a double suicide, Eden Inc. has some explaining to do. So they hire forensic psychologist Christopher Lash to figure out what went wrong. And then another perfect match ends in death...

From the Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Child's story, while quite ingenious, contains echoes of other stories we all know, from "Frankenstein" to "1984" to "The Stepford Wives" to every mad scientist B-movie we saw as kids...."Death Match" should be a popular beach book this summer because it is slick, sophisticated entertainment, as well as a cautionary tale about artificial intelligence. But the novel is also derivative, uneven and burdened with too much high-tech mumbo jumbo about "avatars" and "computational hyperspace" and "basal compatibilities." Worst of all, it turns out that Liza can't really produce a perfect marriage. If you want one of those, you still have to trust in dumb luck.
Patrick Anderson
Publishers Weekly
Child's work as both solo author (Utopia) and with Douglas Preston (Relic; Still Life with Crows; etc.) always features concepts so high they threaten readers with nosebleeds. Eden, a computerized matchmaking corporation, promises clients who pay a $25,000 fee and pass strict psychological and physical testing that they will receive not just a date but a perfect romantic match, a soul mate with a lifetime money back guarantee. All of the couples brought together are blissfully happy; in the company's history no one has ever asked for a refund. The moving force behind Eden is a supercomputer named Liza and her designer, the brilliant, reclusive Richard Silver. Liza compares one million variables in its process, and those candidates with a 95% match rate are declared ideal mates. Six couples out of the 624,000 people who have gone through the program have had all million variables perfectly aligned, creating what Eden calls "Supercouples." But one of the supercouples has inexplicably committed double suicide. Dr. Christopher Lash, a psychologist specializing in marital relationships, is called in to discover what has gone horribly wrong. Within a week, a second supercouple have also killed themselves. Lash works with security technician Tara Stapleton to investigate some of the individuals rejected by Eden. At the end of the book Lash is in serious trouble, and the entire Eden house of cards is beginning to collapse. As in all of Child's work, there is plenty of interesting cutting-edge science and, in this case, psychiatric and computer lore. Most thriller veterans will know from almost the beginning who is behind the suicides of the supercouples, but putting it all together makes for an entertaining read. (May) Forecast: An intriguing premise, lots of fascinating science, a broad fan base and excellent film prospects add up to happy sales. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
For $25,000, people can find their perfect romantic partner thanks to a state-of-the-art operation known as Eden. Its founder, a reclusive computer scientist, has created "LIZA," a supercomputer capable of tapping into any records and files in her search to provide the "perfect match." When some of the couples begin dying under mysterious circumstances, former FBI agent Christopher Lash is called in to discover the cause. It's against this technical background that Child has set his latest suspenseful psychological thriller and proves once again that he is a master at building tension to a fever pitch. Narrator Barrett Whitener brings his considerable skills into play by sharply defining each major character and by maintaining a high level of menace and danger. A first-class thriller that deserves a spot in the audio collection of most libraries.-Joseph L. Carlson, Allan Hancock Coll., Lompoc, CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Second solo work by Child, who writes mighty thrillers with Douglas Preston (Still Life with Crows, 2003, etc.). The genius-touched Child writes paragraphs of polymathic detail of the kind seen most often in the novels of Richard Powers. As in his first solo flight, Utopia (2002), he again creates a gifted person who loves his toys. In Utopia, the entertainment genius Eric Nightingale created a Disneyesque theme park featuring four worlds: Gaslight, Camelot, Callisto (space age stuff), and Boardwalk. This time around, the lonely computer brain Richard Silver creates Liza (as in Shaw's Pygmalion), a fabulous artificial intelligence construct that can teach itself to think with ever increasing speed, depth, and sensitivity. Then Silver decides to devote Liza to resolving problems of human happiness, particularly in mating choices, and he erects, in Manhattan, the amazing building named Eden, Inc., where for $25,000 a person can be scanned genetically, psychologically, and otherwise for the perfect mate. In the four years of Eden's huge success, no ill match has asked for its money back. All clients, like Stepford wives, remain perfectly mated-some more perfectly than others. These superperfect matings, of which Eden has produced six, are called supercouples. But now something terrible has been happening to them: two of the six pairs have committed suicide. Eden, Inc., calls in Dr. Christopher Lash (author of Congruency), a psychologist specializing in marital relationships who's also a burned-out and retired forensic psychologist with the FBI Behavioral Science team working out of Quantico. Lash has to dig into the deep guts of Liza to find a reason for the suicides-but all he comes to arecloudless dead ends with supremely happy couples smiling at him. Finally, Lash himself must go through Eden's screening process to understand how it works, and, although he's turned down as a client, Liza nonetheless finds his perfect mate. And the, well, murderer? Big surprise. Terrific writing-though the climax, overly spun out, sticks to thriller format. Agent: Eric Simonoff/Janklow & Nesbit
From the Publisher

“Ultra-entertaining…. Lincoln Child weaves fascinatingly plausible technologies and a frighteningly believable tale.”
Dan Brown, author of THE DA VINCI CODE

“As far as plot, action and suspense are concerned, UTOPIA could hardly be improved upon, but that is only the first of Child’s achievements. His characters are first-rate, as is his writing…. UTOPIA is a sensational piece of popular entertainment. If you’re looking for intelligent fun, it doesn’t get much better than this.”
Washington Post Book World

“A beautifully crafted scare-fest…. UTOPIA’s gadgetry is heaven for techno-thriller fans, and the threats from the sabotaged attractions are startlingly inventive. Here’s hoping for a sequel.”
People Magazine

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt


It was the first time Maureen Bowman had ever heard the baby cry.

She hadn't noticed right away. In fact, it had taken five, perhaps ten minutes to register. She'd almost finished with the breakfast dishes when she stopped to listen, suds dripping from her yellow-gloved hands. No mistake: crying, and from the direction of the Thorpe house.

Maureen rinsed the last dish, wrapped the damp towel around it, and turned it over thoughtfully in her hands. Normally, the cry of a baby would go unnoticed in her neighborhood. It was one of those suburban sounds, like the tinkle of the ice cream truck or the bark of a dog, that passed just beneath the radar of conscious perception.

So why had she noticed? She dropped the plate into the drying rack.

Because the Thorpe baby never cried. In the balmy summer days, with the windows thrown wide, she'd often heard it cooing, gurgling, laughing. Sometimes, she'd heard the infant vocalizing to the sounds of classical music, her voice mingling in the breeze with the scent of pi-on pines.

Maureen wiped her hands on the towel, folded it carefully, then glanced up from the counter. But it was September now; the first day it really felt like autumn. In the distance, the purple flanks of the San Francisco peaks were wreathed in snow. She could see them, through a window shut tight against the chill.

She shrugged, turned and walked away from the sink. All babies cried, sooner or later; you'd worry if they didn't. Besides, it was none of her business; she had plenty of things to take care of without messing in her neighbors' lives. It was Friday, always the busiest day of the week. Choir rehearsal for herself, ballet for Courtney, karate for Jason. And it was Jason's birthday; he'd demanded beef fondue and chocolate cake. That meant another trip to the new supermarket on Route 66. With a sigh, Maureen pulled a list from beneath a refrigerator magnet, grabbed a pencil from the phone stand, and began scrawling items.

Then she stopped. With the windows all closed, the Thorpe baby must really be cranking if she could hear . . .

Maureen forced the thought from her mind. The infant girl had barked her shin or something. Maybe she was becoming colicky, it wasn't too late for that. In any case, the Thorpes were adults; they could deal with it. The Thorpes could deal with anything.

This last thought had a bitter undertone, and Maureen was quick to remind herself this was unfair. The Thorpes had different interests, ran in different circles; that was all.

Lewis and Lindsay Thorpe had moved to Flagstaff just over a year before. In a neighborhood full of empty nesters and retirees, they stood out as a young, attractive couple, and Maureen had been quick to invite them to dinner. They'd been charming guests, friendly and witty and very polite. The conversation had been easy, unforced. But the invitation had never been returned. Lindsay Thorpe was in her third trimester at the time; Maureen liked to believe that was the reason. And now, with a new baby, back full-time at work . . . it was all perfectly understandable.

She walked slowly across the kitchen, past the breakfast table, to the sliding glass door. From here, she had a better view of the Thorpes'. They'd been home the night before, she knew; she'd seen Lewis's car driving past around dinnertime. But now, as she peered out, all seemed quiet.

Except for the baby. God, the little thing had leather lungs . . .

Maureen stepped closer to the glass, craning her neck. That's when she saw the Thorpes' cars. Both of them, twin Audi A8s, the black one Lewis's and the silver one Lindsay's, parked in the breezeway.

Both home, on a Friday? This was seriously weird. Maureen pressed her nose up against the glass.

Then she stepped back. Now listen, you're being exactly the kind of nosy neighbor you promised you'd never be. There could be any number of explanations. The little girl was sick, the parents were home to tend to her. Maybe grandparents were arriving. Or they were getting ready to go on vacation. Or . . .

The child's cries had begun to take on a hoarse, ragged quality. And now, without thinking, Maureen put her hand on the glass door and slid it open.

Wait, I can't just go over there. It'll be nothing. I'll embarrass them, make myself look like a fool.

She looked over at the counter. The night before, she'd baked an enormous quantity of tollhouse cookies for Jason's birthday. She'd bring some of those over; that was a reasonable, neighborly thing to do.

Quickly, she grabbed a paper plate--thought better of it--replaced it with a piece of her good china, arranged a dozen cookies on it, and covered them with plastic wrap. She scooped up the plate, made for the door.

Then she hesitated. Lindsay, she remembered, was a gourmet chef. A few Saturdays before, when they'd met at their mailboxes, the woman had apologized for being unable to chat because she had a burnt-almond ganache boiling on the stove. What would they think of a homely plate of tollhouse cookies?

You're thinking about this way, way too much. Just go on over there.

What was it, exactly, she found so intimidating about the Thorpes? The fact they didn't seem to need her friendship? They were well educated, but Maureen had her own cum laude degree in English. They had lots of money, but so did half the neighborhood. Maybe it was how perfect they seemed together, how ideally suited to each other. It was almost uncanny. That one time they'd come over, Maureen had noticed how they unconsciously held hands; how they frequently completed each other's sentences; how they'd shared countless glances that, though brief, seemed pregnant with meaning. "Disgustingly happy" was how Maureen's husband termed them, but Maureen didn't think it disgusting at all. In fact, she'd found herself feeling envious.

Steadying her grip on the plate of cookies, she walked to the door, pulled back the screen, and stepped outside.

It was a beautiful, crisp morning, the smell of cedar strong in the thin air. Birds were piping in the branches overhead, and from down the hill, in the direction of town, she could hear the mournful call of the Southwest Chief as it pulled into the train station.

Out here, the crying was much louder.

Maureen strode purposefully across the lawn of colored lava and stepped over the border of railroad ties. This was the first time she'd actually set foot on the Thorpes' property. It felt strange, somehow. The backyard was enclosed, but between the boards of the fence she could make out the Japanese garden Lewis had told them about. He was fascinated by Japanese culture, and had translated several of the great haiku poets; he'd mentioned some names Maureen had never heard of. What she could see of the garden looked tranquil. Serene. At dinner that night, Lewis had told a story about the Zen master who'd asked an apprentice to tidy his garden. The apprentice had spent all day at it, removing every last fallen leaf, sweeping and polishing the stone paths until they gleamed, raking the sand into regular lines. At last, the Zen master had emerged to scrutinize the work. "Perfect?" the apprentice asked as he displayed the meticulous garden. But the master shook his head. Then he gathered up a handful of pebbles and scattered them across the spotless sand. "Now it is perfect," he replied. Maureen remembered how Lewis's eyes had sparkled with amusement as he told the story.

She hurried forward, the crying strong in her ears.

Ahead was the Thorpes' kitchen door. Maureen stepped up to it, carefully arranged a bright smile on her face, and pulled open the screen. She began to knock, but with the pressure of her first rap the door swung inward.

She took a step.

"Hello?" she said. "Lindsay? Lewis?"

Here, in the house, the wailing was almost physically painful. She hadn't known an infant could cry so loud. Wherever the parents were, they certainly couldn't hear her over the baby. How could they be ignoring it? Was it possible they were showering? Or engaged in some kinky sex act? Abruptly, she felt self-conscious, and glanced around. The kitchen was beautiful: professional-grade appliances, glossy black counters. But it was empty.

The kitchen led directly into a breakfast nook, gilded by morning light. And there was the child: up ahead, in the archway between the breakfast nook and some other space that, from what she could see, looked like a living room. The infant was strapped tightly into her high chair, facing the living room. The little face was mottled from crying, and the cheeks were stained with mucus and tears.

Maureen rushed forward. "Oh, you poor thing." Balancing the cookies awkwardly, she fished for a tissue, cleaned the child's face. "There, there."

But the crying did not ease. The baby was pounding her little fists, staring fixedly ahead, inconsolable.

It took quite some time to wipe the red face clean, and by the time she was done Maureen's ears were ringing with the noise. It wasn't until she was pushing the tissue back into the pocket of her jeans that she thought to follow the child's line of sight into the living room.

And when she did, the cry of the child, the crash of china as she dropped the cookies, were instantly drowned by the sound of her screams.


Christopher Lash stepped out of the cab and into the tumult of Madison Avenue. It had been half a year since he was last in New York, and those months seemed to have softened him. He hadn't missed the acrid diesel plumes belching from serried rows of buses; he'd forgotten the unpleasantly burnt aroma of the sidewalk pretzel stands. The throngs of passersby, barking into cell phones; the blat of horns; the angry interplay of cars and trucks--it all reminded him of the frantic, senseless activity of an ant colony, exposed from beneath a rock.

Taking a firm grip on his leather satchel, he stepped onto the sidewalk and inserted himself deftly into the crowds. It had been a long time, too, since he'd carried the satchel, and it felt foreign and uncomfortable in his hand.

He crossed Fifty-seventh Street, letting himself be carried along by the river of humanity, and headed south. Another block, and the crowds eased somewhat. He crossed Fifty-sixth, then slid into an empty doorway, where he could pause a moment without being jostled. Placing his satchel carefully between his shoes, he gazed upward.

Across the street, a rectangular tower rose into the sky. There was no number, or corporate lettering, to betray what lay within. They were rendered unnecessary by the logo that--thanks to countless high-profile news reports--had recently become almost as familiar an American icon as the golden arches: the sleek, elongated infinity symbol that hovered just above the building's entrance. The tower rose to a setback, halfway up its massive flank; higher, decorative latticework ran around the structure like a ribbon, setting off the top few floors. But this simplicity was deceptive. The tower's skin had a richness, a sense of depth, almost like the paintwork on the most expensive of cars. Recent architectural textbooks called the building "obsidian," but that wasn't quite correct: it had a warm, pellucid glow that seemed almost drawn from its environment, leaving the surrounding buildings cold and colorless by comparison.

Dropping his gaze from the facade, he fished into the pocket of his suit jacket and pulled out a piece of business stationery. At the top, "Eden Incorporated" was embossed in elegant type beside the infinity logo; "deliver by courier" was stamped at the bottom. He reread the brief message below.

Dear Dr. Lash:

I enjoyed speaking with you today, and I'm glad you could come on such short notice. We'll expect you Monday at 10:30 a.m. Please give the enclosed card to one of the security personnel in the lobby.


Edwin Mauchly

Director, Facilitation Services

The letter yielded up no more information than it had the other times he'd read it, and Lash returned it to his pocket.

He waited for the light to change, then picked up his satchel and made his way across the street. The tower was set back extravagantly from the sidewalk, creating a welcoming oasis. There was a fountain here: marble satyrs and nymphs disporting themselves around a bent, ancient figure. Lash peered curiously through the curtain of mist at the figure. It seemed a strange centerpiece for a fountain: no matter how he stared, he could not quite determine whether it was male or female.

Beyond the fountain, the revolving doors were kept in constant motion. Lash stopped again, observing this traffic intently. Almost everyone was entering, not leaving. But it was almost ten-thirty, so it couldn't be employees he was seeing. No, they must all be clients; or, more likely, would-be clients.

The lobby was large and high-ceilinged, and he paused again just inside. Although the surfaces were of pink marble, indirect lighting lent the space an unusual warmth. There was an information desk in its center, of the same obsidian as the building's exterior. Along the right wall, beyond a security checkpoint, lay a long bank of elevators. New arrivals continued to stream by him. They were a remarkably heterogeneous crowd: all ages, races, heights, builds. They looked hopeful, eager, perhaps a little apprehensive. The excitement in the air was palpable. Some headed toward the far end of the lobby, where twin escalators climbed toward a wide, arched passage. Candidate Processing was engraved above the passage in discreet gold lettering. Others were moving toward a set of doors below the escalators marked Applications. And still others had gravitated to the left side of the lobby, where Lash caught the flicker of myriad movements. Curious, he drifted closer.

Across a wide swath of the left wall, floor to ceiling, large flatscreen plasma displays had been set edge to edge in a huge matrix. On each screen was the head shot of a different person, talking to the camera: men and women, old and young. The faces were so different from each other that, for a moment, Lash sensed but could not place the commonality they shared. Then he realized: every face was smiling, almost serene.

Lash joined the crowd who had assembled, mute and staring, before the wall of faces. As he did so, he became aware of countless voices, apparently coming from speakers hidden among the screens. Yet through some trick of sound projection, he found it easy to isolate individual voices in three-dimensional space, to match them with faces on the screens. It completely turned my life around, a pretty young woman on one of the screens was saying, seeming to speak directly to him. If it wasn't for Eden, I don't know what I would've done, a man on another told him, smiling almost confidentially, as if imparting a secret. It's made all the difference. On yet another screen, a blond man with pale blue eyes and a brilliant smile said, It's the best thing I've ever done. Period. End of story.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Lincoln Child is the author of Utopia and the forthcoming Deep Storm. He is the coauthor, with Douglas Preston, of Relic, The Cabinet of Curiosities, Still Life with Crows, and a number of other bestselling thrillers. He lives with his wife and daughter in Morristown, New Jersey.

From the Paperback edition.

Brief Biography

Place of Birth:
Westport, Connecticut
B.A., Carleton College, 1979

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Death Match 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 46 reviews.
coness More than 1 year ago
This was my first Lincoln Child book and it was a good read. There was more computer lingo than I felt was necessary to carry the story line, but I was able to skim over it easily. Finding a perfect match sounded too good to be true--and it was...I'll definitely try another of his books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another solid effort by Lincoln Child. The prime motivation of the story may have been weaker than in his other stories, but the story was well told and the twists and deceptions were effective. Definitely worth reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This has a good story line, a little predictable but still good. Is a quick read
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