A terminally ill man sells his life insurance policy for cheap to an investor who will collect the full amount when the sick man dies.But is the sick man really sick?Does he even exist?In the age of AIDS and no-holds-barred capitalism, the business of betting on how much longer sick people will live is thriving.Is this new market in which life insurance pol...
A terminally ill man sells his life insurance policy for cheap to an investor who will collect the full amount when the sick man dies.But is the sick man really sick?Does he even exist?In the age of AIDS and no-holds-barred capitalism, the business of betting on how much longer sick people will live is thriving.Is this new market in which life insurance policies are bought and sold a legitimate enterprise, or is it an open invitation to fraud and murder?
Carver Hartnett, Miranda Pryor, and Leonard Stillmach all work for Reliable Allied Trust, in Omaha, where they investigate insurance fraud.Carver — the narrator of this edgy and surprising novel — is frustrated.His company would rather raise premiums than prosecute insurance criminals.Miranda, his seductive coworker, leads him on and then puts him off — she seems to have something monstrous to hide.When their friend, crazy Lenny, a computer gamer and an expert with drug-and-alcohol cocktails, dies in the middle of playing Delta-Strike online, a strange and disturbing narrative unfolds around a possible murder and massive insurance fraud.Carver is drawn deeper into various hearts of darkness, and in his efforts to discover the truth behind his friend's death, he ends up betting his own life.
Filled with memorable characterizations — Carver's boss, the shrewd Old Man Norton; Dagmar Helveg, Norton's fascist assistant; regional investigator Charlie Becker, a plain-talking, commonsense cop — Bet Your Life conducts a stealthy philosophical investigation of its own, in which our hero ends up investigating the mysteries of his soul.
From Publishers Weekly
Dooling, who was an NBA finalist for his White Man's Grave a few years back, never writes the same kind of book twice, and this time he's produced a sort of techno-noir thriller set within the confines of the insurance business. The reader learns a great deal about insurance scams and the cynicism pervading the industry, and the Omaha setting is piquant for its contrast with the high-living, trendy insurance investigators who are the book's stars, but the book's virtues end there. The plot is extraordinarily convoluted, with villains both expected and unexpected popping up every few pages, and neither Carver Hartnett, the narrator; his alcoholic, pill-popping buddy, Leonard Stillmach, whose mysterious death precipitates the action; nor beautiful but apparently unattainable Miranda Pryor are either appealing or believable. Carver, for instance, plays teenage blow-'em-away computer games with Leonard, Miranda downs gallons of vintage wine while fending off Carver's advances and all are given to sudden pseudo-profound pronouncements. One scene, in which Carver goes after Miranda while spouting chunks of the Abraham and Isaac story from the Bible, only to have her reply in kind, is an over-the-top classic of weirdness. There are nice touches-a low-profile local homicide detective sneering at the high-tech FBI, for instance-but for the most part the book is a stylistically perplexing mess.
From Library Journal
"In my line of work, we call it the f-word. Not the familiar obscenity but a close cousin and mercenary variant called fraud." Narrator Carver Harnett's job is to investigate insurance scams for Reliable Allied Trust in Omaha, NE, but it's a thankless task because "fraud runs through the insurance business like waste through a treatment plant," and the company would rather raise premiums on their honest customers than prosecute the fraudulent. When a fellow investigator is fired and later dies mysteriously, Carver discovers that deception and trickery run close to home. Why did the late Lenny Stillmach buy and then sell several life insurance policies worth a half million dollars to Heartland Viatical, a company he was supposed to be investigating? Did Lenny really have AIDS, as he claimed on the insurance applications, or was he involved in some huge con game? And what was his relationship with Miranda Pryor, a sexy co-worker for whom Carver feels unrequited lust? In his third novel, National Book Award finalist Dooling (White Man's Grave) tackles the murky world of viatical insurance ("where investors bet on how fast AIDS victims die") with mixed results. The premise is intriguing and the writing stylish, but the characters are mostly caricatures, and after a while the narrative becomes repetitive, tedious, and at times unbelievable. For larger collections.