The Well, an Exhilarating Spy Thriller by R. Chapman Wesley

The Bottom Line: An exhilarating spy thriller that successfully blends myth, science, espionage and magic. 

Russian scientist Professor Anatoly Popov, described as a bit of a swashbuckler, has been on a quest for perfect health his entire life. He first encountered the legend of The Well while studying Kung Fu in a Taoist temple. What if a scientific breakthrough, based on a Chinese legend, could deliver perfect health and a disease-free life during a lifespan of one’s own choosing? 

The experience made Popov naturally drawn to virology and immunology academically, but the Soviet government pushed his work into something far more sinister: bioterrorism. Eventually, Popov defected to the West. 

The scientist, now in his 70s, steals the world’s deadliest virus from a U.S. lab with the goal of altering its properties and creating the Universal Cure. But the theft triggers a world-wide dragnet that leaves Popov with little time to complete his mission. To pull this off, he’s going to need help. 

Enter Commander Rex Lee of the Genometrics Corporation, a former Navy Seal who is hired to “create a plethora of viral toxins.” Out of the blue, Rex is astonished to receive a shipment from Popov, who he hasn’t heard from in years. The container, having been shipped from Rio de Janeiro, is labeled, “Extreme Biohazard, Handle with Extreme Care.” 

Rex’s attempts to reach Popov go unanswered. Nevertheless, his subsequent discovery sends Genometrics’ stock skyrocketing, with the company circulating the claim that it can cure 87% of all cancers. But no good deed goes unpunished. Like Popov, Rex too will soon find himself in mortal danger.

As the book’s Foreword by Celestine Prophecy author James Redfield indicates, the concepts in The Well are rooted in spiritualism and metaphysics. Author R. Chapman Wesley, a recipient of the Terri Guth Award for humanitarianism in medicine, successfully blends myth, science, espionage and a bit of magic to create a journey well worth taking. Combining the academic heft of Terry Hayes’ classic bioterror thriller I am Pilgrim, and the metaphysical glow of The Celestine Prophecy, Chapman seems poised to carve out his own lane within the literary landscape. 

Wesley excels when it comes to creating immersive settings, lavishing each scene with extraordinary sensory detail (“The ante room in the basement of the renovated colonial hillside mansion had the musty smell of a subterranean cavern. The odor would incite in Popov a sense of discovery whenever he would open the door to the cellar after long absences”). Rex’s budding relationship with Gia Marina Lee, PhD, round out his character, while explorations of humanity’s eventual extinction are eventually tethered to the narrative. But the book’s most exhilarating scenes are those in which Rex’s superhero-like combat skills are required. With both brains and brawn, Rex is a series-worthy hero.

Bella Wright

Bella Wright blogs about books, film and media.

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