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Review: 'Panacea'

Thriller with outlandish premise hooks readers into series

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By Rob Cline, correspondent

Imagine a substance that once consumed would cure you of any and all ailments and disorders overnight — literally. Would you take it? Would you share it? Would you attempt to share it with the whole world or would you try to keep it secret and tightly controlled?

Those questions drive F. Paul Wilson’s new novel. “Panacea” finds medical examiner Laura Hanning swept into a quest for a miracle cure she doesn’t believe in. Protected by a secretive bodyguard with a philosophical streak at the behest of an unimaginably wealthy but terminally ill man, Fanning travels the world looking for clues that might lead her to her goal. Meanwhile, a CIA agent, who is also part of a religious order obsessed with destroying the panacea, alternately attempts to hamper and help Fanning as he deals with the sudden onset of an illness of his own.

All of that might sound rather breathless and convoluted, and the book justifies those descriptions. Fast-paced, filled with twists and turns, and built on an outlandish premise that Wilson somehow makes plausible, “Panacea” is a satisfying thriller with a supernatural hook.

The book, which the cover says is the start of a new series, is also a part of what Wilson calls “the secret history of the world.” At the end of the novel, Wilson explains, “The preponderance of my work deals with a history of the world that remains undiscovered, unexplored, and unknown to most of humanity.” He then provides a lengthy list of his books and stories that contribute to this overall arc he has been crafting for much of his career.

To his credit, Wilson doesn’t let the fact that the new book is part of the secret history prevent it from working as a stand-alone novel. In fact, he pulls off something rather impressive, delivering a story that is gripping in and of itself while also providing a glimpse into a larger story that readers may well be tempted to explore at length.

BOOK READING

What: F. Paul Wilson will read from “Panacea” as part of the Iowa City Book Festival

When: 11:30 a.m. Oct. 8

Where: Iowa City Senior Center, Assembly Room, 28 S. Linn St., Iowa City

Cost: Free

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