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The Tomb

Novel by F Paul Wilson (USA) 1984.

Repairman Jack has made himself an outcast from society: with no social security number, bank account, or other traceable items, as far as the US government is concerned he doesn't exist. This makes life as a fixer much easier. For a price, he solves people's problems for them, any problem. So when his ex-girlfriend Gia's in-laws start mysteriously disappearing, naturally he is called in. Jack hasn't much to work on, but the case soon starts to tie in more and more with another he has just wrapped up: the return of a stolen necklace to an aged Hindu woman. Soon Jack finds that there is a very strange reason behind the disappearances, and Gia's daughter is next.

Not a perfect novel by an means, this is nevertheless a solid and gripping read, a worthy follow-up to the author's breakthrough novel, The Keep. Originally titled Rakoshi after the Bengali demons who figure largely in the plot, this is a monster novel, a Kali novel (though very different from the usual thuggee fare) and above all a detective story. But however thrilling the read might be, and it is hard to put down, there are flaws. Repairman Jack is a blatant steal from TV's The Equalizer, with something of Robert Forward's later The Owl in there as well; Gia is unjustly underused; and some of the revelations towards the finale are a bit far-fetched, though to give Wilson due credit, he keeps us believing in most of what is a pretty far-out plot.

Most of the plus-points come from the conflict between Jack and the villain of the story, two characters who, though on different sides, are similar in many ways; but kudos is earned by putting a very different slant on the use of religion in horror. After Roman Catholicism with its age-old fight against the minions of Satan, Hinduism with its Kali cult must be the most used religion in horror fiction. But where most Kali novels deal with a literal fight against thuggee worshippers, Wilson delves into the beliefs and mythology of the Hindus; and the importance of personal karma, the balance of a person's good and bad deeds that determines who or what you will be reincarnated as, is at the heart of the story. Original and worthwhile.

The West Coast Review of Books obviously liked The Tomb as well, at least enough so to award it their Porgie Award for the best paperback original of 1984. Incidentally, if you enjoy this novel, you may also be able to find an associated short story called The Last Rakosh in the program book from the 1990 World Fantasy Convention.

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