Corrupted Creole civility complicates the life of a Brooklyn bohemian -- in a spirited debut deftly mingling past, present, and the vastly different worldviews of New Orleans and New York. Ned Conti is a 32-year-old graduate student down and out in New York, passing time in East Village bars, avoiding work on his dissertation, and still mending from a disastrous love affair broken off ten years before. Adding insult to injury is a ghost in his dingy Brooklyn apartment: Furniture moves, stones fall from the ceiling, and he catches glimpses of a former time and inhabitant. A fruitless job researching a locally venerated 19th-century nun for his parish priest, who presides over her mummified remains and hopes to give Brooklyn its first saint, does little to improve Ned's state of mind. And when a Gypsy friend conducts a sâ€šance in order to get to the bottom of his ghost problem, but something goes awry and she jumps into the East River, he finds he's touching bottom himself. Then he's mugged and pistol-whipped. Meanwhile, his examour, the ravishing, raven-haired, old-family-rich Antoinette, phones from New Orleans to invite him to her family's bayou gathering, and in a drug-enhanced, fast-lane frenzy they pick up where they left off -- for a few days. Back in Brooklyn, drained and thoroughly bewildered, Ned falls ill but finally discovers the truth about the nun, his ghost, and Antoinette, although it takes a visit to the mummy and a near-death experience to provide all the missing links. Forsaking New York once and for all, he lives happily ever after with Antoinette in the city where he truly belongs. The romance in Girardi's tale has an undeniable sappiness and familiarity, but entrancing characters, finely turned comic flourishes, and a cryptful of canny plot twists make for a smooth, intoxicating delight.