If the 20th century had superheroes, the fifth century BC had deities. In Marie Phillips' absolutely delightful novel, Gods Behaving Badly, the Olympians are still around, in much reduced circumstances, in a exceptionally grotty north London pile. Aphrodite now runs a phone sex line, Dionysus is a DJ, and Apollo is a TV psychic, except when he's turning young women into eucalyptus trees if they refuse to sleep with him. The engine that turns this into a novel rather than a clever conceit is a cleaner, Alice, and her sort of boyfriend Neil. In one of her typically petulant revenges, Aphrodite has made Apollo fall hopelessly in love with Alice, while binding him in an oath not to harm her.
Part of the charm is in the juxtapositions - the gods are arrogant yet naïve, foul-mouthed but innocent, powerful but pointless. They're particularly cross with Eros, who's joined the Christian Union and gets to throw exquisite tantrums where he wishes that the Virgin Mary was his mother. None of the Gods can understand Athena's management speak and Zeus, the king of the gods, is locked in the attic, going a little gaga and thinks Doctor Who is a relation. When it becomes necessary for them to create a hero, the hapless Neil is pressed into service, taken on a trip to the Underworld, and, for a while, the Scrabble-obsessed engineer with a Judge Dredd collection holds the fates of gods and mortals in his slightly sweaty hands. There's enough mordant tang to keep it from becoming just silly, and, at moments, a frisson of real horror (Apollo is bemused that rape is so unacceptable these days). This has all the classic - no pun intended - comedy reversals, and given the wealth of Greek mythology, I can easily imagine their ongoing exploits becoming a regular summer feature.