After depicting gamblers in ''Oscar and Lucinda'' and outlaws in ''True History of the Kelly Gang,'' two-time Booker Prize winner Carey populates his new novel with two old poets and the editor of a London literary review. However unexciting that sounds, the book actually gets off to a rip-roaring start -- soon the lit types are mired in scandal, kidnapping, and murder in the unbookish tropics of Malaysia. The plot concerns the editor's discovery of a batch of poems ''worth being born for,'' and boasting a helluva backstory. Where did they come from, and who is this hulking Frankenstein's monster-type figure who insists they're his? These questions draw you through the book at a clip, but the unsatisfying answers -- or lack thereof -- take some of the force out of an otherwise gripping read.