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The Bad Angel Brothers

Review

The Bad Angel Brothers

Three years separate the Belanger brothers. However, the age gap between Cal and Frank is the smallest and most insignificant difference one can say about them. Younger brother Cal likes a simple life; he’s most content when out prospecting for gold and gems, existing in nature, uncomplicated by the burden of possessions. Frank, on the other hand, craves the almighty buck. But more so he craves control, and he will manipulate, cheat and lie to achieve it. To be totally honest, what Frank wants most is to control Cal. In fact, he’d love nothing more than to steer Cal’s life right off a cliff.

"Theroux explores family dynamics in THE BAD ANGEL BROTHERS, a complicated endeavor that will leave you wondering 'what if?' long after you’ve turned the last page. This novel is one for the ages."

So far, Cal has managed to stay away from their hometown of Littleford by mining in Mexico or Colombia or far-off Africa, which tends to frustrate his brother’s plan. Oh, but Frank is patient. He will bide his time, like any predator. He remained in Littleford, “helping” people in need with his clever lawyering. The people there love him, hailing him a hero for his work and calling him a near saint for staying close to his mother. The fact that he’s gotten rich off of them seems to float right over their heads. And the stories he tells. What an amazing man Frank Belanger is. He has done incredible things. Never mind that those incredible things he stole from Cal’s experiences and retold as his own.

Cal knows what Frank is doing but tries to ignore it. After all, Cal himself is away a lot, making a small fortune and enjoying what the land provides for him. What’s the harm in his brother telling stories back home? Cal grits his teeth but moves on. During one of his outings, Cal meets Vita, a woman who totally captivates him, and Frank is soon forgotten. He takes Vita back home to Littleford. When he introduces her to his mom, she instantly loves Vita, too. And Vita loves Cal’s family and Littleford. How much better can it get? Well, for the cunning Frank, it’s wonderful. He smells an opportunity. Frank has had a run of bad luck, and Cal’s good fortunes seem endless. That combination makes for a dangerous catalyst as Frank intends to make some changes. If only Cal had been less trusting.

Cal and Vita begin life as a married couple, have a child and seem to be charmed. Cal continues his prospecting around the globe, while Vita raises their son and builds a network in Littleford while working to save children from brutal forced labor. Cal makes trips back home at least twice a year but doesn’t notice Vita growing distant. Is he too late? She’s begun to rely on Frank for a lot in Cal’s absence. Slowly, Frank has become indispensable to her. Cal doesn’t want his brother anywhere near his wife, but Vita gets defensive whenever Cal tries to explain why. She doesn’t understand his animosity towards Frank. No one does. It turns out that Frank has two sides to his face --- literally and figuratively --- and only Cal can see the evil that lurks on the dark side.

Ultimately, Frank pushes his brother to the breaking point. A sociopath like him doesn’t care about limits. But maybe this time he should have, because Cal has started dreaming of all sorts of ways to kill Frank. And he means to do it.

In Frank, Paul Theroux has created a character who so insidiously gets under your skin that he almost seems to be pulling his shenanigans right there in the room with you. Frank grew up hating his brother, for reasons unknown, and set out to destroy him. It becomes impossible not to hope that Cal succeeds in murdering this awful person, as we’ve all had a Frank in our lives. Theroux explores family dynamics in THE BAD ANGEL BROTHERS, a complicated endeavor that will leave you wondering “what if?” long after you’ve turned the last page. This novel is one for the ages.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on September 10, 2022

The Bad Angel Brothers
by Paul Theroux

  • Publication Date: September 6, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Humor
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books
  • ISBN-10: 0358716896
  • ISBN-13: 9780358716891