SEPULCHRE by James Herbert


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A violent horror novel about an evil-worshipping psychic that displays none of the fetching whimsy of Herbert's The Magic Cottage (1987)--and, in fact, marks his backslide into the routine ghoulish chills of Moon (1986) and its paperback predecessors, The Rats, The Fog, The Survivor, etc. Herbert scores a few points for his unusual setup, in which macho security-expert Liam Halloran nabs his oddest assignment ever: to guard Felix Kline, mysterious V.I.P. employee of the giant Magma corporation, against unnamed threats. High-strong, cruel, arrogant about his unique ability to divine minds as well as hidden mineral resources--hence Magma's success--Kline intuits that someone's after his blood. Who? That twist revelation comes only at the end of Herbert's patent blood-and-fury tour of Kline's weird world, headquartered in an all-white penthouse atop Magma's London skyscraper and in a brooding rural mansion, and peopled by his international goon squad--a cannibalistic Pole, two homosexual sadist Arabs, and a Yank psycho. Biographical glimpses (with the accent on gore--e.g., the Pole eating concentration-camp victims) of these henchmen and of Kline intercut with bizarre turns: Halloran spots Kline walking on water, sees a multitude of menacing forms in a nearby lake, is threatened by the psychic's pet jackals. Halloran's romance with Kline's pretty assistant (who beds the security man when she's not busy being tied up and whipped by another) adds some base eroticism to the frenetic action, which culminates in Halloran's discovery that Kline's the point man for nasty ancient god Bel-Marduk--who, along with Kline, gets his comeuppance in a noisy climax that involves human sacrifice and dismemberment. An intriguing lead character--Halloran's penchant for violence makes him particularly susceptible to Kline's manipulations--and some effective settings don't compensate for the excessive luridness and clichÉd, pseudo-Lovecraftian premise. More repulsive than scary, energetic but cheap.

Pub Date: June 27th, 1988
Publisher: Putnam