One of the first mystery novels I ever read was Mary Higgins Clark’s Loves Music, Loves to Dance. This 1991 bestseller centres on a clever killer who finds his murder victims in the personal ads of a trendy magazine. I was probably eight or nine when I read this book (don’t ask) and the little I knew about personal ads I’d learned from the Rupert Holmes song “Escape”. But if he could accidentally go on a blind date with the pina colada-loving woman he was already seeing, it certainly seemed believable that someone could accidentally go on a date with a murderer.
You might think that a story like Loves Music, Loves to Dance couldn’t take place in the internet era. A personal ad in a print publication is one-way, a broadcast signal, belonging to a time when letters and answering services were a thing, when an entire meet-cute (or mystery novel, for that matter) could hinge on whether or not someone happened to be at home to receive a phone call at a particular time. By contrast, the digital iteration of personal ads is all about instant communication. We can text, WhatsApp, FaceTime, like, favourite, and swipe all day every day, and we can get a true sense of what someone is like based on the information they’ve put online instead of relying on a few lines of text in the back of a magazine. So this should make sussing out the weirdos and creeps easier.
It actually just makes it harder.
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