Jim Chapel gave one of his arms to defend the United States as a Ranger, but after losing his almost-fiancee’s love because of his work, he finds himself realizing that the only thing he has left is the job itself. In the second Chapel novel from David Wellington, we see an emotionally broken special agent who is sent to Russia, intent on disarming a long-lost Soviet nuclear weapons system that could go off at any moment.
Wellington delivers a story that could very well be about Jason Bourne. Not the Matt Damon/Paul Greengrass type, but the type of Bourne novel that Robert Ludlum wrote. It’s intense without being breakneck, entertaining without being spoofed. We feel like Chapel could be a James Bond-type with the beautiful woman, the technology (his artificial arm), and the mission, but we’re made to feel like it’s grounded in reality.
Unlike Bourne or Bond, Chapel has soul.
In one particular scene, he finds himself marveling at the grandeur of a church, and reflecting back on the way that his mother found peace and solitude there. It’s a quiet moment of reflection mixed in deep with an intense story about love, longing, and courage, but it shows us a side of our hero that we never/rarely see with others like him. It’s reflected in his refusal to murder when given other options, to fight back only when necessary, and it’s what makes him wounded… and vulnerable.
Chapel is partnered with a beautiful Soviet spy, who brings in a third member to their team, an IT guy. The three of them brave amphibians, planes, trains, bullets, and nukes, intent on reclaiming the system that could blow civilization off the map. Altogether, the story covers most of the known world geographically, with dialogue, romance, danger, and more, forcing me to search for a copy of Wellington’s initial Chapel novel to find out more.
This one comes fully recommended for the espionage thriller lover, with a few extra twists by the end that tell me we haven’t seen the last of Jim Chapel.