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FICTION : ANGELS OF SEPTEMBER by Andrew M. Greeley (Warner Books/Bernard Geis Associates: $17.95).

March 16, 1986|DANIEL AKST

This latest fiction offering from prolific Chicago priest Andrew M. Greeley is the kind of status-conscious romance in which eyes flash anger, jaws set in grim determination, and clothes really matter. Mixing vague diabolism with steamy sex in Chicago's Irish Catholic aristocracy, the story concerns a beautiful but tortured art dealer who struggles against repressive church doctrine and her own weird demons to find happiness with a gruff but giving police official she knew as a child.

The Greeley favorites--lust, guilt, expiation, Chicago and Catholicism--are all here, but Anne Marie O'Brien Reilly's specific torments are the church and a 1935 parochial school fire that claimed 92 lives, including that of her sisters. Having missed school with the sniffles that day, Anne is afflicted with nearly terminal guilt for the next 45 years.

That's not all: Her parents and remaining siblings die violent deaths, her first husband beats her, her second is a sleazy ex-priest who dumps her, and her children, with one exception, are either killed or silly. Worse, she is stuck with a dead priest's painting that seems possessed.

Through it all, Reilly publishes articles on Vermeer, reads French, stays gorgeous, and leaps tall buildings in a single bound. Stereotypes and bad dialogue abound, and while the story unfolds nicely, the outcome is preposterous.

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