Ruth Rendell

The Saint Zita Society

"The Saint Zita Society’ is Ruth Rendell hitting the bulls-eye"


The Saint Zita Society convene in the Dugong at the end of Hexam Place. It consists of the folk who live and work for those privileged enough to own a place in Hexam Place, Pimlico. Saint Zita was the patron saint of domestic servants and their meetings allow them to voice their concerns for the local area and their disapproval of the way they are treated by their employers. They wish to make changes that will allow them more privileges and to stop people taking advantage of them: but the residents of Hexam Place, above and below stairs have their secrets and soon both worlds will collide when murder and subterfuge touches them all.

One such Saint Zita member, Dex works as a gardener for the kindly Dr. Jefferson and receives messages from his 'God' – his mobile phone service provider, 'Peach'. It is when Dex begins to receive calls from 'Peach' instructing him to rid the world of certain evil spirits that Hexam Place becomes the centre of destructive forces hidden behind the respectable facades.

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'The Saint Zita Society' is Ruth Rendell hitting the bulls-eye. It showcases what Rendell does so well – takes a respectable part of London where people lead innocuous lives and then picks their lives and psyche apart to show the monster beneath. As with many of Rendell's novels her characters are hardly loveable, in fact the people who live in Hexam Place could be described as a crowd of grotesques but Rendell still makes you feel some empathy for them which is her metier. The cast is vast, but Rendell expertly manages with short sharp bursts to involve everyone who lives within the chosen houses of Hexam Place. As always, her acerbic, ironic humour is threaded within her prose as she highlights the absurdity of some people. What I thought Rendell did well was to highlight the ever increasing chasm between the 'have' and the 'have nots' which is a factor you read about everyday in the newspapers. 'The Saint Zita Society' had the feel of one of my favourite novels of Rendell's 'The Killing Doll' and for me this novel is back to what Rendell does best. As always, the ending wasn't an ending but showed that life and death go on and for the people within this drama there is no finale, no wrapping up with paper and a nice bow. It was an ending that made me read the last paragraph several times. Rendell is a consummate professional of her chosen genre and this latest shows that with nearly fifty years experience under her belt Rendell can still significantly stake her claim amongst the new blood of crime fiction.

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