This is a quite amusing novel, although it runs the gamut from being childishly comical to randily risque in a kind of strange schizophrenia that is sometimes typical of first novels. The concept is simple: the gods of Olympus have fallen onto hard times because no one worships them anymore (their strength, like Tinkerbell’s in Peter Pan, seems to be directly proportional to how many people believe in them), and are now living in a run-down flat in London. Because none of them are actually useful, they run an advert for a maid and give her strict instructions about her duties, thinking to avoid the awkward questions of what this strange household actually is. A long running feud between Apollo and Venus gets out of hand, involves the poor maid and her would-be boyfriend, and before you know it, things are going so badly that a trip to the underworld is necessary to save the world.
While this kind of thing has been done before (and better; see, for example, Thorne Smith’s The Night Life of the Gods or some of the novels by Tom Holt), Phillips does an admirable job of keeping all the hijinks rolling along without too much exposition bogging the comedy down. And there’s enough set pieces that make this novel memorable (like Diana’s way with animals). Enjoyable.
[Finished 18 August 2008]