It’s been a fun few weeks on my bedside table, starting with Gods Behaving Badly, by Marie Phillips, a silly romp that puts a dysfunctional, dissipated and dispirited family of Greek gods in a dilapidated house in contemporary London. Aphrodite is a phone-sex operator, Artemis is a dog walker, and a couple of innocent mortals help bring the gods and goddesses to their senses. It’s broadly funny, with pretty raunchy sex and a sweet if predictable story.
Next up was the irresistible Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which one of my friends bought for the cover art alone. With tongue firmly in cheek, Seth Grahame-Smith updates the classic in perfect Austenspeak. The Bennet girls, all decomposed zombie killers, get up to the same adventures with Mr. Darcy and and the Bingleys, with the added scintilla of zombies running amok in Hampshire and London, not to mention an army of ninjas employed by Lady Catherine. Sly, arch and funny, P&P&Z is an authentic Regency comedy of manners that just happens to take up the matter of a few thousand undead on the loose, and includes some hilarious, non-Austenian innuendo to boot. It’s a hoot to read for those who aren’t appalled at the notion of zombies roaming Meryton.
Last and least, but enjoyable nonetheless, was The Italian Secretary, a new-in-paperback Sherlock Holmes mystery by Caleb Carr, whose historical novel The Alienist was atmospheric and fascinating, if a little abstruse and cool. He’s clearly having fun with the form, with Watson as a stuffy fellow and the inimitable Sherlock taking somewhat of a back seat to his brother Mycroft. After reading about 50 swift pages it becomes redundant to read on the back cover that Carr teaches military history, which he brings to bear in this tale set in Edinburgh’s Holyrood House, the home of Mary, Queen of Scots. Atmospheric and acerbic in tone, the novel moves along well, although the plot did not have quite enough Holmesian twists or revelations for my taste. Diverting, rather than amusing.
Gods Behaving Badly, by Marie Phillips ($13.99)
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Seth Grahame-Smith ($12.95)
The Italian Secretary, by Caleb Carr ($7.99)
Available at Vroman’s Bookstore and other booksellers
— Mel Malmberg