EDWARD O. PHILLIPS is a master of the one-liner, and this trick is what makes The Landlady's Niece (Seal, 210 pages, $27.50 cloth) worth reading. The plot is pure Cinderella. Just as middle-aged Elinor Richardson's life in Toronto comes unravelled, she inherits a Westmount apartment building from her cantankerous aunt. Elinor moves into the building, but she begins to suspect her aunt of posthumous malice when the bequest proves to be a rotting albatross. Always in search of a good man, Elinor finally permits herself to be rescued from her erstwhile salvation by a prince whom she formerly knew as a frog.
There is nothing realistic about The Landlady's Niece except the Westmount setting and some poignant moments involving a tenant whom Elinor mistakes for potential bedroom fodder. The plot and characters are TV sit-com material, and Elinor and her friend, with whom she cracks wise throughout the book, are about as lifelike as Mary Tyler Moore and Rhoda. But therein lies the charm of the book - it's hilarious.