It's hard not to like anything from the pen of Michael Frayn.
The man who wrote Noises Off, one of the half-dozen most successful farces ever written, is one of those British polymaths who not only knows almost everything but can play every kind of writerly role: he's tried his hand as a comedian, as a translator of Chekhov, a man who catches the shadow of the spymasters, someone who can tinker with thrillers or play with poignancy.
His new book is a comical romp, set on a Greek island, and it plays on identity confusions of the most elementary kind, with plenty of spirit, elegance and incidental, winding comedy.
There's a conference to be held for the benefit of the more or less brainless super-rich on said island.
The British girl who's organising it for an American overlady succeeds in not greeting the lumbering, heavy-handed, British academic who's supposed to be giving the talk, but a charming blond professional conman who thinks ''why not play along with the lark for as long as it lasts'', given the chance of novelty and a pretty girl.
Meanwhile, the heavyweight and humourless academic is transplanted to the wrong villa and finds himself in the presence of the wrong young woman (though she - we're in the domain of novelistic farce - turns out to be a friend of the conference organiser).
Everything mad that can unfold - or some diverting fraction of it - does, and the whole performance is rendered with the superadded gloss and sophistication that comes from the fact that Michael Frayn is a real writer and therefore the quality of his prose and the humour of his tone are the real thing, not dry, hard simulacra.
It's fortunate because Skios is not an especially inventive example of the kind of champagne fiction it is.
Frayn can put together this kind of book of obvious comical mishaps while falling off a log and it would be possible to see this one as a bit thin and facile if it were not, pretty manifestly, the work of a man of wit who doesn't have to try very hard to be funny.
You can't complain when a writer deals in stereotypes if he can swerve away from them as suavely as Frayn does.
Nor is there much point in getting on a high horse about a book as light as air that is designed to be easy to take.
This is a rather beautifully crafted offhand book and you get a very vivaciously heightened sense of the self-intoxicated young chancer, the hapless bumbling academic who retains his dignity through his ordeals and the delightful dimwittedness of the girls who fail to stop everything going about as haywire as it can.
There are delicious little confusions between ''Skios'' and ''Skiers", playing on the fact that the temperature is 33 degrees Celsius (rather bad for snowsports). There are sheiks who get set on fire and blundering security guards who open fire.
There's a vision of the goddess Athena, white and radiant, stamping snakes. Oh yes, and there's the pathos of an unconfident man of middle years singing If You Were the Only Girl in the World to himself and falling in love with her shoulders.
You'll know at a sustained glance if Skios is your kind of poison.
It's true that it all seems to take place in some 1970s of the male mind, but it's civilised, silly and full of snaps of reality in pursuit of the ridiculous. What more do you want? Art? Life?