Clarke's novel, subtitled "A Ghost's Story," is a winning comedy of collegiate (bad) manners, set at Louisiana State University. The narrator, an affluent frat boy named Conrad Avery Sutton III, tells us right off that he's dead, murdered by fellow Gamma Chi Ryan Hutchins, a psychotic hiding behind a charming Big-Man-on-Campus veneer. Conrad makes it his afterlife's work to bring cocky Ryan down, with the help of the frat house's salty cook, "crazy" Miss Etta. She knows Conrad is still on Earth to protect hapless fraternity pledge Tucker Graham, who, like most of the world, sees Ryan as "a big, bright, rising star." It sounds a little like a sitcom, albeit an edgy one, but Clarke fashions a hilariously addictive yarn, with crackling prose and sharp observations that consistently entertain and surprise. He drives the plot over the top with portraits of hypocritical religious fanatics and unrestrained party animals, and into baby Grand Guignol territory with a swath of utlandish killings—but it all works as black farce of a high degree.
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