cover image Skios


Michael Frayn. Metropolitan, $25 (272p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9549-4

Frayn’s latest (after Afterlife) is a wacky case of mistaken identity set on the luxurious Greek island of Skios. Nikki Hook is arranging the Fred Toppler Foundation’s annual gala, a celebration of culture attended by academic heavyweights and international dignitaries. But when she goes to the airport to pick up the keynote lecturer, Dr. Norman Wilfred, an eminent theorist and pedantic bore, she instead collects Oliver Fox. Oliver, a playboy who has come to Skios to seduce the beautiful Georgie, decides on a whim, when Georgie’s flight is delayed, to usurp Dr. Wilfred’s identity. Meanwhile, through a series of absurd misunderstandings, the real Dr. Wilfred is whisked away to Oliver’s borrowed villa where lonely Georgie waits. Nikki soon becomes enamored with the duplicitous lothario she believes to be Dr. Wilfred, while Dr. Wilfred falls for Georgie. The novel is a lacerating satire, with characters propelled by equal parts accident and self-interest in a world in which academic and political luminaries are as vapid as the fraud they fawn over. While entertaining, the absence of sympathetic characters keeps the stakes low and the dramatic tension weak. Agent: Carol Heaton, Greene & Heaton. (June)