Anthony Capella, writing as JP Delaney is garnering quite the reputation for offering readers twisty psychological thrillers. The first I read, The Girl Before was incredibly clever (and very popular) and – surprisingly – I enjoyed his second book, Believe Me even more.
Now I’ve read the third, an obvious theme around fantasy, infatuation and perfection is emerging. And again, in The Perfect Wife, he’s creatively pushing boundaries and giving us something quite new.
The Perfect Wife
by J.P. Delaney
Published by Quercus
on August 6th 2019
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Psychological Thriller, Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 1786488523, 9781786488534
Abbie awakens in a daze with no memory of who she is or how she landed in this unsettling condition. The man by her side claims to be her husband. He's a titan of the tech world, the founder of one of Silicon Valley's most innovative start-ups. He tells Abbie that she is a gifted artist, an avid surfer, a loving mother to their young son, and the perfect wife. He says she had a terrible accident five years ago and that, through a huge technological breakthrough, she has been brought back from the abyss.
She is a miracle of science.
But as Abbie pieces together memories of her marriage, she begins questioning her husband's motives--and his version of events. Can she trust him when he says he wants them to be together forever? And what really happened to Abbie half a decade ago?
Beware the man who calls you . . .
The blurb hadn’t really prepared me for exactly how Abbie is able to be revived. Interestingly I’d been having conversations about related subject matter over the days before reading this… so it was a bit freaky.
In some ways it feels as if there are two parts to this book. One is the mystery… the psychological thriller as Abbie tries to unpick her past. Initially Tim’s not keen for her to learn of the events from five years earlier, but it’s obvious she will. And even when she finds out, she can’t remember the details.
And then there’s Abbie now. How she comes to be. Who she was and who she is.
The book unfolds through two narrators – one is Abbie, as she wakes to her new/old life; and the other is someone from Tim’s company who talks of Abbie’s introduction to Tim. They give us some interesting insights into Abbie and I actually really enjoyed that voice – it was surprisingly objective – happy to admit when they’d been charmed or when they felt manipulated.
It sounds like her early months and years with Tim were great… until their son Danny was diagnosed with Heller’s syndrome, a childhood disintegrative disorder, which meant (at four years of age) he essentially developed autism and lost functioning he’d previously had. The parents disagreed over treatment – Tim preferring the traditional route with Abbie keen to try something different. It seems to have been a point of tension though the Danny Abbie sees now (five years later, under his father’s preferred model of care) seems happy and she’s able to bond with him again – at least as much as he’ll allow.
I was intrigued by the mystery, and there’s an underlying sense of something almost sinister which brings the elements together… Tim’s desperation to resurrect his wife after having lost her. Indeed he seemed somewhat obsessive when it came to retrieving the Abbie he once knew.
… once again you have that uneasy feeling about Tim’s love for you – that it’s as driven and uncompromising as everything he does. There could be something claustrophobic, even frightening about being loved so much and so inflexibly. p 187
Tim is socially challenged (ie. geeky) but seems devoted to his wife. Then and now. But… Abbie doesn’t have all of her memories and Tim has kinda cherry-picked them for her. And I can’t say too much about this (lest I give too much away) but I was intrigued about the whole memories vs feelings vs thoughts thing.
Can inhabiting someone’s life (via their social media feeds, photographs, recordings, diary entries) actually tell you what they were thinking? Of course it doesn’t seem like it could… which perplexed me a little. It’s kinda the crux of this book, or perhaps that’s what we’re forced to consider: how memories are made and become feelings or thoughts. Or something.
Or perhaps Delaney is wanting us to think about perfection and the notion of keeping someone in some sort of stasis so they don’t change. Which leads me to pondering the point of moulding someone into something so exact and so perfect that they seem kinda pointless and boring.
This would definitely be a good bookclub book as it’s a bit of a mindf*ck in some ways. I read it before its release and was desperate to talk to someone about it. It has taken ages to write the review without giving too much away but also explain why it’s more thought-provoking than a typical psychological thriller. Delaney has again taken an age-old dilemma (the loss of a loved one) and turned it on its head with the help of technology and reminds us we ‘may’ be heading in a direction we don’t want to travel.
The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney was published in Australia by Hachette and now available.
I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.