First published back in June of 1987, British horror author James Herbert’s novel ‘Sepulchre’ followed on from a healthy line of well-received novels.
Liam Halloran is a professional bodyguard and hostage negotiator. He’s also damn good at what he does. And so, when Magma Corporation contacts Halloran’s employers ‘Achilles Shield’, requiring personal protection for their most valuable asset, Halloran is handed the job.
As it turns out, Magma Corporation’s most valuable asset is a psychic researcher named Felix Kline whose paranormal abilities allow his to locate undiscovered mineral mines. Insured at £50 million by the exploration company, losing Kline would nevertheless be a horrendous loss to the company. Already there have been a number of failed attempts on the psychic’s life by rival competitors. But now, with Kliene having a premonition that he is soon to be in very real danger, Magma Corporation are seeking the very best security measures for their prized asset.
Upon accepting the task of protecting Kliene, Halloran is introduced to the man’s personal assistant - Cora Redmile who has been coordinating Kliene’s personal bodyguards until now. However, after Halloran performs a review on the current security measures, he decides that the bodyguard’s training is far from adequate for the task at hand, along with numerous other such security failures that could hinder Kliene’s ultimate safety. And so Halloran’s work begins.
And then Felix Kleine decides to be moved to his luxurious personal estate named ‘Neath’ that is hidden away in a small valley near London. Behind the solid stone walls that encircle the property, Kleine’s expansive country estate offers numerous avenues for an attack if one was to come. And so Halloran begins his investigation of the large grounds. An investigation that brings up numerous questions as to why so many rooms are locked and off bounds to their chief of security. Additional Arabic bodyguards patrol the area, their presence and barefaced denial of speaking or understanding the English language another mystery in itself.
Something is not right within ‘Neath’. Halloran can feel the presence of something lurking in the great stone building. Elsewhere on the estate, the large lake seems to hold hypnotic depths that wish to draw in those that spy into its expansive void.
With the threat level against Klein’s life rising, Halloran knows that the most secure place for the strange psychic to be right now is within the huge stone walls of ‘Neath’. But unbeknown to the bodyguard, the estate holds a dark and age-old secret. A secret that inhabits the premises and at the same time secures Kleine’s life within. A secret that began with the very heart of Bel-Marduk. A secret that has now ensnared Liam Halloran into a terrible fate...
In ‘Sepulchre’ Herbert goes hell for leather with an imaginatively elaborate plot, that has spanned hundreds of years, until this very critical point in time. From early on, the tale reads like a somewhat farfetched thriller with a decidedly paranormal twist. The intriguing corporate element that Herbert has brought into the early quarter of the storyline seems to magnify the threat to a much higher degree. In doing so, from the very outset, Hebert has successfully managed to ramp-up the tension, mystery and increasing excitement.
As the tale progresses, the injection of the Sumerian mythology into the proceeding plotline suddenly takes on a whole new level. Connections begin to slowly be made, linking together oddities to form a much larger and more elaborate picture than was initially visualised.
The tale just seems to keep on expanding, with more and more puzzling questions being raised around every corner. Halloran’s professional nature in the face of so much mystery and (pretty darn obvious) deception is first-rate. Although the characterisation is somewhat undeveloped and wooden, Herbert manages to mask this to a certain degree by maintaining these strong personal traits (such as the constant ingrained professionalism) to maintain some degree of basic characterisation.
The tension seems to be always there. An unseen lingering threat that is constantly lurking in the background. The background subtly of this constant threat works incredibly well, with the reader’s imagination working absolute wonders in keeping them on the edge of their seat.
The final quarter of the novel is where Herbert really gets stuck in with the unashamed injection of horror into the tale. Revelation after revelation after revelation bombards the reader, as Herbert throws all he’s got into the final mix. From a tension heavy thriller to a vicious supernatural horror that has been carried over hundreds of years, the tale’s journey has somehow amounted to one hell of a ride, ending in a truly dramatic and fitting finale.
The novel incorporates many similarities between ‘The Spear’ (1978) and perhaps even ‘The Jonah’ (1981), with the predominant thriller/horror crossover, as well as the uncovering of age old secrets that have transcended vast amounts of time.
There was an extra chapter named ‘Cora’s Needs’ (Chapter 19) that was removed from the novel by Herbert himself, which can be found within Herbert's biography ‘Devil In The Dark’ (2003). This extra chapter adds an interesting addition to the novel which expands on the relationship between Liam and Cora, but was removed because Herbert thought it slowed the pace of novel down too much.
The novel runs for a total of 316 pages.
© DLS Reviews