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Death Match    by Lincoln Child order for
Death Match
by Lincoln Child
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Death Match is a near-future thriller. Eden Incorporated has developed and aggressively marketed an artificial intelligence capable of finding people's perfect matches - at $25,000 a shot. But something is causing their supremely happy supercouples to self-destruct. Eden hires psychologist Christopher Lash, an ex-FBI profiler, to investigate. As he does so, his own past demons re-surface to hinder his work.

Though Lash finds nothing in these couples' backgrounds to explain the implosion of their happily ever after expectations, deaths continue, as do odd episodes of personal harrassment of the psychologist himself. As part of his investigation, Lash is processed as an Eden candidate ... and rejected. He works with the company's chief security technician, Tara Stapleton. He meets and likes the corporation's brilliant, reclusive founder, Dr. Richard Silver. Silver introduces Lash to Liza, the AI creation (named after a well known dialogue program with which I used to enjoy chatting) that is the key to Eden's success.

It's a compelling tale, incorporating fascinating detail of the personality testing process, such as ink blot samples and their interpretation. Gradually, Lash begins to suspect a very subtle murder in the supercouple deaths. Suspects are investigated and cleared one by one. As Lash moves ever closer to understanding the motivations behind this brilliant crime, his life is turned upside down and he is morphed into the hunted, instead of the hunter. The grand finale is full of thrilling action, violence and self-sacrifice, with the kind of concluding twist that was obligatory in early SF.

Though I guessed the general shape of the ending early on, I still enjoyed the thrills of the ride through Death Match, and appreciate the issues it raised about the potential for profiling individuals through their data traffic.

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