Monday, July 25, 2016

Review of "Skios" by Michael Frayn

This 'mistaken identity' farce takes place on the beautiful Greek island of Skios. Dr. Norman Wilfred, a well-known British scientist (in some very small circles), is on his way to deliver an esoteric lecture to the annual meeting of the hoity-toity Fred Toppler Foundation. Wilfred's been invited by the event organizer, Nikki Hook - who believes she's found a gem of a lecturer (unlike her predecessors' poor boring choices). The plane to Skios is also carrying fellow Brit Oliver Fox, a good-looking playboy who's planned an illicit tryst in a borrowed villa with a woman he hardly knows.

When their plane reaches the Skios airport Dr. Wilfred is briefly delayed and Oliver succumbs to a naughty impulse: when Nikki approaches him to ask if he's Dr. Wilfred he says yes. Thus Oliver is wafted off to the gorgeous Fred Toppler compound and - by dint of the language barrier - Dr. Wilfred's taxi driver takes him to the villa meant for Oliver's lovers' tryst. Moreover, because they have similar luggage, Oliver takes Dr. Wilfred's bag and Dr. Wilfred is left frustrated and luggage-less.

Nikki and the guests at the Fred Toppler event are charmed by handsome Oliver, who's adept at telling lies and making himself plausible. Meanwhile poor Dr. Wilfred is mistaken for a potential rapist by Oliver's date, who shows up at the villa before she's expected. Things get even worse when Oliver's long-time (but currently estranged girlfriend) shows up and is mistaken for the cleaning lady. True to the mistaken identity genre the complications escalate through the story, providing some fun scenes. To add to the mayhem there's rivalry among Toppler foundation employees and a gang with it's own agenda.

I found the main characters engaging (if a bit obtuse) and the book entertaining. However the story requires a huge suspension of disbelief. In this internet age, would Nikki (with access to Google) mistake young, handsome, blonde Oliver for middle-aged, chubby, balding Dr. Wilfred? And could Oliver - who knows nothing about science - convince intelligent people he's an expert? In any case the story races along to a finale that's explosive but not quite satisfactory.

Overall this is a fun easy read, good for a vacation or plane ride.

Rating: 3 stars

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