cover image The Bad Angel Brothers

The Bad Angel Brothers

Paul Theroux. Mariner, $28.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-358-71689-1

Theroux (The Mosquito Coast) cranks the nastiness to 11 in this powerful tale of a decades-long sibling rivalry. The story is narrated by Cal Belanger, 56, a globe-trotting geologist with a successful prospecting business. Cal loathes Frank, who stayed in their hometown of Littleford, Mass., to build an injury law practice. Over the course of the narrative, Cal lists the many betrayals that have soured his relationship with his “local hero” brother, including Frank’s habit of recounting Cal’s personal experiences as his own and his resistance to repaying loans Cal made to him. Frank, however, is revered as a saint by his clients, owing to the “whiplash windfalls” he wins them. After Frank plays a role in alienating Cal’s wife and son from him in an emasculating divorce suit, Cal plots grim revenge. Is Frank truly the “devil” that Cal makes him out to be? Is Cal, in his obsessive complaints that contradict Frank’s appraisal by others, an extraordinarily unreliable narrator? Theroux plays skillfully on reader sympathies until the bitter end, showing how a man’s beliefs can make him turn to violence. The result is searing and memorable. (Sept.)