cover image From the Teeth of Angels

From the Teeth of Angels

Jonathan Carroll. Doubleday Books, $22 (212pp) ISBN 978-0-385-46841-1

Long popular in Germany and other parts of Europe, Carroll is acquiring a larger audience here, but his latest effort, though as provocative and as cleverly written as his previous books ( Outside the Dog Museum ; After Silence ), does not quite come together. Understanding the nature and logistics of dying becomes a perilous enterprise in this quirky tale of four people's supernatural confrontation with the malevolent angel of death. Wyatt Leonard, formerly ``Finky Linky,'' a famous children's TV star, is dying of leukemia when his best friend Sophie pleads with him to accompany her to Vienna and find out what's wrong with her brother Jesse. Both Jesse and Englishman Ian McGann, who met while vacationing in Sardinia, are suffering from weird dreams in which they meet with Death and ask various questions. When Jesse and McGann fail to comprehend Death's cryptic answers to these queries, they awaken with serious injuries and ailments. Also in Vienna is Arlen Ford, a former movie star who has fled Hollywood and is living as a spartan recluse. Arlen falls in love with an HIV-positive photographer named Leland Zivic and ultimately must share the odd predicament of Wyatt, Jesse and McGann. Carroll develops his plot largely through the spoken anecdotes and exchanged letters of principal characters and their loved ones. Each of these accounts draws the reader in further with incremental revelations and skillfully crafted, suspenseful narrative. Unfortunately, these individually intriguing parts never cohere to form a greater whole. Despite the Faustian pretensions, obvious metaphysical questions are never probed and only murkily formulated, making the invocation of Death less meaningful than Carroll probably intended. Literary Guild selection. (May)