17 October 2012

Review: THE SAINT ZITA SOCIETY, Ruth Rendell

  • Format : Kindle (Amazon) - click on this link to read a sample.
  • File Size: 450 KB
  • Print Length: 290 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0385671652
  • Publisher: Cornerstone Digital (July 5, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007NG91J0
  • source: I bought it
Synopsis (Amazon)


'Someone had told Dex that the Queen lived in Victoria. So did he, but she had a palace and he had one room in a street off Warwick Way. Still he liked the idea that she was his neighbour.'

Dex works as a gardener for Dr Jefferson at his home on Hexam Place in Pimlico: an exclusive street of white-painted stucco Georgian houses inhabited by the rich, and serviced by the not so rich.
The hired help, a motley assortment of au pairs, drivers and cleaners, decide to form the St Zita Society (Zita was the patron saint of domestic servants) as an excuse to meet at the local pub and air their grievances.

When Dex is invited to attend one of these meetings, the others find that he is a strange man, seemingly ill at ease with human beings. These first impressions are compounded when they discover he has recently been released from a hospital for the criminally insane, where he was incarcerated for attempting to kill his own mother.
Dex's most meaningful relationship seems to be with his mobile phone service provider, Peach, and he interprets the text notifications and messages he receives from the company as a reassuring sign that there is some kind of god who will protect him.
And give him instructions about ridding the world of evil spirits . . .

Accidental death and pathological madness cohabit above and below stairs in Hexam Place.

My Take

I have to confess that I spent the first few chapters of THE SAINT ZITA SOCIETY wishing that my Kindle version had a map that would help me sort out who lived where in Hexam Place. There's quite a rich parade of characters, most of whom live in the houses in Hexam Place.

In this stand-alone novel, much of the story is taken up with the relationships and events that connect the residents of Hexam Place and the reader may be forgiven for wondering about what direction the book is taking.  By the end however you will wonder why you didn't see it all coming.

The first death does not occur until a third of a way through the novel, an accident resulting from "a kicking downstairs, the classic way of expelling a man from a house." But this death involves two of the characters in disposing of the body in the country, and a bond between that eventually must be broken, violently.


I'm finding it incredibly difficult to tell you much about the novel without revealing too much of the plot. You'll have to take my word for it that I did enjoy the read, but that it was only as I looked back that I realised how intricately and cleverly drawn were the various threads that connected the story.

Underlying the story is an exploration of the layering of modern society, its lack of moral fibre, its selfishness, its inequalities, and the consequences of its inability to deal adequately with those susceptible to exploitation. There's a sort of justice and retribution in the final death.

My rating: 4.5

See also
Review on Reviewing the Evidence by Yvonne Klein
Kirkus Reviews

I have also reviewed
FROM DOON WITH DEATH
PORTOBELLO
4.7, THE MONSTER IN THE BOX
4.5, A NEW LEASE OF DEATH
4.6, THE VAULT
4.6, THE BEST MAN TO DIE
4.5, A SIGHT FOR SORE EYES

1 comment:

Nicola Mansfield said...

I just love Rendell, but it's been awhile since I read anything of hers.

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