You'd Look Better as a Ghost

Joanna Wallace's first novel, You'd Look Better as a Ghost, combines black humor and a realistic portrayal of grief with a surprisingly sympathetic serial killer. This oddball story is both grim and unexpectedly entertaining.

Claire's not all that good with people, and she's also deeply grieving. Claire has always struggled with the habits of those she calls "ordinary people," a group she does not identify with. She lives alone outside of London, painting, running on her treadmill, and now wrestling with the loss of her father following a painful battle with early-onset dementia, psych wards, and abusive care homes. Her late father seems to be the one person she's ever felt close to; flashbacks to childhood sketch a chilly if not disturbing portrait of her mother. Plagued by migraines, Claire gets a doctor's referral to a bereavement counseling group. "I may not have cried, drunk to excess or wrung my hands in disbelief since Dad died but I've definitely become more reckless with my kills."

Oh, yes: Claire is also a serial killer. She struggles with "ordinary people" to the extent that she often feels the need to end their lives. Her new bereavement group offers potential outlets for her creativity, as well as new challenges.

Told in Claire's witty, deadpan voice, You'd Look Better as a Ghost revels in dark humor. But the novel also deals seriously with the protracted grief of losing a loved one to dementia, and the potentially redemptive power of true friendship. Amid much irreverence, its themes are genuinely heartfelt and even sweet. This debut is fresh and unforgettable. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

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