I'm big enough to admit when I am wrong.

I've always been an avid F. Paul Wilson fan. I have trouble remembering which book I read first, The Keep or The Tomb. I'm thinking it was The Tomb. I was instantly entranced by the writing and the powerful storytelling. Not to mention the redoubtable Repairman Jack character.

I read everything that came down the pike from F. Paul Wilson, and I was never disappointed. Horror novels, the occasional flight into science fiction or fantasy, medical thrillers, and of course the long-running Adversary Cycle.

Paul had announced the end of the beloved Repairman Jack series, disappointing his legion of fans. No one wants to say goodbye to one of their favorite characters.

I was excited for Panacea back in 2016, and I eagerly began reading it as soon as the novel was published. I went in with absolute certainty that I would love it.

But I didn't. There were factors involved. I was still smarting from the end of the Jack stories. I was trying to adjust to life without alcohol. I was in a new relationship and undergoing life changes. Good changes, but it was an adjustment.

I felt that Panacea was a cynical attempt to recreate the furor of the Repairman Jack stories. It seemed like a desperate ploy to start another series, with a generic action hero. You know the type: Extremely capable, but enigmatic. Walks a bit on both sides of the law. Has unique characteristic habits. A shaky love interest ensues.

I stopped reading Panacea around the halfway point.

I decided it was time to give Panacea another try. I picked it up this week, and I liked it more this time. A lot more.

Yeah, there is still some truth to the above criticisms, but Panacea is a damned good action story. Part high tech, part adventure, part medical thriller, part international espionage yarn. Something like Preston and Child might write.

A panacea is a mythical cure-all substance that fixes any human health malady. A rich man is dying and hires a medical examiner to locate a panacea. He firmly believes in its existence. Despite witnessing miracle healing from numerous patients, she laughs it off as an impossibility.

A bodyguard (see above) accompanies our heroine to various locales in search of the elixir. A shadowy group is chasing her, and another secret society wishes the panacea to remain a secret.

F. Paul Wilson is as expert a storyteller as ever with Panacea. It's a lightening-paced roller coaster, with action, wit, and beguiling ideas. Wilson sometimes plays rough with his characters, and his readers, and at least one scene had me squirming and grossed out.

Is Panacea among the best F. Paul Wilson books? I don't really think so, but it is a good one. Damned good. There are two more novels in a series that features the same characters. Between these two books, and the upcoming novel, Double Threat, I have plenty of F. Paul Wilson to look forward to in the next couple of months. That makes me very happy.

Written by Mark Sieber

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