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Literature / Sepulchre

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"A conflict of evils."

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...


“There are tropes beneath us, Halloran…”

  • The Anti-Christ: Sumerian god Bel-Marduk is described as such.
  • 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.
  • Big Damn Villains: IRA hit man Danny Shay disrupts Kline’s attempt to sacrifice Cora.
  • 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.”
  • Corrupt the Cutie: Kline surreptitiously addicts Cora to violent masochism, with intent to use her as conduit for the bodily corruptions of his unnatural age.
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  • 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 a career in the army.
  • Empathic Environment: From the corruptions of those within, the structure and grounds of Neath adapt themselves into nebulous creatures.
  • Fat Bastard/ Fat Idiot: Deconstructed with Monk, whose tendencies to violent bastardry were partly nurtured by bullying over both his weight and mental inhibition.
  • God: Acknowledged by Kline to exist, and implied to have sown Kline’s downfall by sending Halloran.
  • God of Evil: Bel-Marduk demanded regular human sacrifice, venerated corruption, and advanced humanity with intent to enable us to wipe each other out.
  • 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.
  • Precursors: Bel-Marduk nudged humanity toward civilisation by teaching basic science, maths, and the written word to the Sumerians.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: Used by Kline to detect mineral sources, project disturbing images, and anticipate an attempt on his life.
  • Retired Badass: Charles Mather.
  • 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.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Asil and Youssef.
  • Too Kinky to Torture: Played for Drama with Monk.

Example of: