Read in the Hodder and Stoughton hardback edition.

This represents a return to fform ffor Fforde, after the disappointing “One of Our Thursdays is Missing”. The seventh in the Thursday Next series, eighth if you count “The Great Samuel Pepys Fiasco”, sees Thursday recovering from injuries sustained in a kidnapping attack, and feeling her age. Offered a post in the Wessex Library Service we spend around 75 pages catching up on life in 1980’s Swindon, during which I was a little worried that the inventiveness of earlier books remained missing. But the scene setting is worth the time, because the book kicks in with a puzzling attack on Thursday’s family which is clearly the work of Aornis Hades, Thursday’s nemisis. From there the action never flags.

The span of the novel plays out over a week in which a lot happens in Thursday’s life. God has decided to cut out all the potential confusion about his existence, and make himself apparent to man. Mankind seems to have taken this in his stride, even when God gets a bit truculent and starts smiting some cities out of existence, downtown Swindon being next in line. So there’s that to sort out, as well as Thursday’s new job in the library service, investigating mysterious attacks on book collections by Goliath, her other nemises, if global corporations can be nemises, and indeed if the plural of nemesis is nemises. Her brother Joffy is now in effect mankind’s chief negotiator with God over the difficult “meaning of life” question. Aornis has escaped, and needs tracking down. And the lives of her children get more complicated as the grow up – Friday is due to murder someone at the end of the week, Tuesday (keep up there) is investigating how to deflect God’s wrath via an anti-smiting device, and Jenny doesn’t exist.

How Fforde keeps all these balls in the air, adding in jokes about Dark Matter (setting up the next book in the series nicely) and a range of wacky ideas about time travel, avatars, parallel worlds (thrown in and lightly thrown away) and of course the Book World, is hard to describe, but he does, masterfully.

The acid test of a good read is if you don’t want it to stop. I read this in a couple of days flat, and didn’t even notice that it was over 350 pages (just checked) – whereas Wolf Hall (for example) was on a slow countdown. I know that probably makes me a sucker for light comic fantasy (and a good dodo joke) – guilty as charged.

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