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The Perfect Wife


The Perfect Wife

JP Delaney, who has written fiction under other names, returns with a third release, THE PERFECT WIFE. Although categorized as a psychological thriller, his latest is straight-on science fiction that also carries a big mystery at its core. This genre-bender makes for great entertainment and a terrific summer read.

The novel is prefaced by a quote from Ovid referring to Pygmalion. This fable will be oft alluded to here as the popular theme of man creating the perfect mate for himself runs throughout the story. The proceedings open with a memory of the time that Tim and Abbie spent in Jaipur, where they became engaged. We quickly learn that it is not so much a memory we are sharing but an upload, the information of which comes from the woman known as Abbie Cullen-Scott. The real Abbie has disappeared, or so we are led to believe as that is the mystery portion of the tale.

Tim Scott is the genius and owner/founder of the company Scott Robotics, and his wife has indeed vanished. He becomes so discouraged with law enforcement's inability to find her that he takes matters into his own hands --- but not in the way you would think. He uses his brain power and cutting-edge technology to build an Abbie robot from scratch, one that literally will be infused with her memories that had been captured years earlier.

"I admire Delaney for providing a real-world feel, yet science-fictional setting, for this conundrum and believe readers will happily go along for the ride."

The “new” Abbie looks and sounds just like her and shows all signs of being the real one. The trouble for the created Abbie is that the memories come and go, and it will take a while for her to piece together everything to figure out what is actually going on. This Abbie essentially becomes the perfect wife for the troubled Tim. What is lacking, though, are sex organs --- even though it was never his intention to have a sexual relationship with his creation, merely an emotional one.

Thrown into the familial mix is Tim's son, Danny, who was a perfectly normal child until one day when everything changed. Stricken with a rare type of autism, Danny has trouble communicating and dealing with the external world. It’s as if the Scotts lost their son and has a stranger in his place. New Abbie does what she can to be the mother he needs, including conducting research into autism and recommending specialists outside of the psychotherapy field for him. It becomes obvious that the mystery surrounding Danny's change and the disappearance of his real mother are somehow entwined.

Things really come to a head when Tim allows New Abbie to be interviewed by a television reporter on a popular show. His Abbie more than holds her own as the seemingly innocent piece becomes quite adversarial with the TV anchor on the attack. While it shows New Abbie in a positive light, it also turns into a viral event that will anger many --- especially the real Abbie's family. Abbie's actual sister, Lisa, coerces New Abbie through a series of obscure messages. Lisa's intent, though, is to learn as much as she can for the lawsuit her family will be bringing against Tim and his company for misappropriating her sister's memory and likeness. They also believe that Tim was directly involved in the real Abbie's disappearance, and accusations of foul play are brought against him.

Interspersed throughout the novel are chapters dealing with the present situation featuring New Abbie, along with the actual story of how Tim and the real Abbie met, leading right up to her disappearance. This allows us to slowly piece together the mystery side of the story, and use all the clues uncovered within to determine what may have actually happened and whether or not Tim is truly guilty of any crimes. It becomes apparent to everyone around Tim and his creation that the New Abbie is a far better match for him and that he just needs to come around to that realization.

THE PERFECT WIFE culminates with the Cullen family’s lawsuit, as well as the solution to the real Abbie and young Danny mysteries. This book is meant, I believe, to foster much discussion. Similar to movies like Ex Machina and Philip K. Dick's novel, DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?, which was the inspiration for the classic film Blade Runner, it makes us face the age-old philosophical question of what constitutes life. I admire Delaney for providing a real-world feel, yet science-fictional setting, for this conundrum and believe readers will happily go along for the ride.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on August 9, 2019

The Perfect Wife
by JP Delaney