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"A conflict of evils."
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A 1987 novel by James Herbert. Bodyguard agency Achilles’ Shield supplies ex-soldier Liam Halloran to guard Felix Kline, whose psychic insight is crucial to global mineral corporation Magma. At Neath, Kline’s secluded Surrey estate, Halloran, while shown irrefutable evidence of Kline’s abilities, is disturbed by the mansion’s minimal security, and bemused by the forlorn, masochistic advances of Cora Redmile, Kline’s aid. Meanwhile, Shield operative Dieter Stuhr is found murdered, the motive of Neath’s prospective invaders remains unclear, and the true nature of Kline’s powers heralds revelation to shake Halloran to the core...

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"There are tropes beneath us, Halloran..."

  • Archaeological Arms Race: In the city of Ur, Kline hastened to uncover a psychically anticipated boon, which turned out to be the preserved heart of Bel-Marduk.
  • Bad Is Good: Like his god, Kline venerates the “superiority of corruption.”
  • Battle Butler: Asil and Youssef, who serve as domestic staff, are also lethally skilled assassins.
  • Blob Monster: A huge mound of tentacular flesh, formed from pure, concentrated malice, appears in Kline’s lake.
  • Body Horror:
    • Kline periodically sheds his skin.
    • The Keeper retains the bodily effects of Kline’s unnatural ageing.
  • The Brute: Monk, Kline’s “ox.”
  • The Corrupter: Having chosen staff comprised of worldwide miscreants, Kline nurtured the malign tendencies of each.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Halloran's father was murdered by the IRA, driving his mother to suicide. Following a career as an apathetically ruthless mercenary, he found balance in the army.
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  • Empathic Environment: From the corruptions of those within, the structure and grounds of Neath adapt themselves into nebulous creatures.
  • God: Acknowledged by Kline to exist, and implied to have sown Kline’s downfall by sending Halloran.
  • God of Evil: Bel-Marduk, otherworldly visitor to ancient Sumer, demanded regular human sacrifice, venerated corruption, and advanced humanity with intent to enable us to wipe each other out.
  • Horrifying the Horror: Most of the IRA hit men are scared half-witless by Kline's monsters.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Jansusz Palusinski, Kline's chauffeur. Although he also enjoys a ham and mustard sandwich.
  • Human Sacrifice: As part of Kline’s Deal with the Devil.
  • Imperturbable Englishman:
    • Anglo-Irish Halloran.
    • Jovial, supremely efficient Shield Planner Charles Mather.
  • Like a Son to Me: Charles Mather, friend to Halloran’s father, steered the brutal skill of the traumatised youth to an auspicious military career.
  • Mesopotamian Monstrosity: The book goes to Sumer and its mythology for its primary force for evil — the god Bel-Marduk.
  • Not Me This Time: While Dieter Stuhr initially appears to have been tortured to death just for the fun of it by some of Kline's warped followers, he was actually fatally tortured by IRA hit man Danny Shay, to find Halloran.
  • Precursors: Bel-Marduk nudged humanity toward civilisation by teaching basic science, numeracy, and literacy to the Sumerians.
  • Keet: Kline's mood often swings to a jovial arrogance.
  • Our Liches Are Different: Kline, whose custody of the preserved heart of Bel Marduk transfers his bodily ageing onto an ancient, unnamed "Keeper", and requires periodic shedding of his skin, may indeed be considered an undead sorcerer.
  • Mind Rape:
    • On entry to Neath's lodge house, Halloran is forced to relive traumatic memories.
    • Kline ties to finish off Halloran by telepathic stimulation of pain.
  • Psychic Powers: Kline uses psychic powers to detect mineral sources, project disturbing images, and anticipate an attempt on his life.
  • Revenge: Sought by IRA hit man Danny Shay on Halloran for the killing of a prospective terrorist.
  • Start of Darkness:
    • On internment in a concentration camp and living through Soviet tyranny, Janusz Palusinksi resorted and became addicted to cannibalism.
    • Displaced Palastinians Asil Khayed and Youssef Daoud, having grown up in squalor, became sadistic assassins.
    • Theodore Monk, an obese boy domineered by his mother, molested by his uncle and relentlessly bullied at school, became accustomed to avenging himself with murderous cruelty.
  • Title Drop Chapter: Chapter 42 has the same title as the book.
  • Villainous Rescue: IRA hit man Danny Shay disrupts Kline’s attempt to sacrifice Cora.

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