The Saint Zita Society by Ruth Rendell

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The Saint Zita Society by Ruth Rendell

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The rich of Hexam Place, Pimlico and those who serve them are going to find that their lives will never be the same. You'll need to work at it to begin with but it repays the effort handsomely.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: July 2012
Publisher: Hutchinson
ISBN: 978-0091944049

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Hexam Place in Pimlico is an exclusive street of white-painted stucco Georgian houses lived in by the rich and by those who serve them, who are far from rich. The help are a motley assortment of drivers, au pairs, cleaners and gardeners who decide to form the St Zita Society - Zita being the patron saint of domestic servants - but its purpose is occasionally hard to determine. There are minor problems they want to tackle, such as dog excrement being bagged and left in the street and situations where they have little hope of having any impact, such as none of the servants being invited to a particular social occasion. Perhaps the main purpose is to give an excuse for meeting in the pub.

Dex works as a gardener for Dr Jefferson. His closest relationship is with his mobile phone and through it with Peach - his service provider. He's convinced that messages giving him free calls are personal and proof that there is a god who is looking after him. And instructions that he should rid the world of evil spirits are a pleasure to follow - they give him a sense of purpose. There's an uneasy mix of madness, misfortune and social division in Hexam Place.

Set some time aside when you start reading. The writing is typically Ruth Rendell - totally straightforward and with not a word wasted - but you're moving into a complex world of those who live upstairs mixing with those downstairs on a series of different levels, ranging from the ultra formal through to the ones who see no reason not to take advantage - even financially - of those who are far worse off than themselves. The staff range from Rabia - the conscientious Muslim nanny who is totally besotted with her charge - through to the au pair who connives in facilitating the adultery of the woman of the house and plans to marry her husband. You're going to meet all these people at once - think of it as having just moved into Hexam Place - and it will take you a little while to sort out who is who.

It's worth it. Everything seems so ordinary - not nice ordinary, but the ordinary of grubby little infidelities, small deceits and people who do their best to stand out against them. There's money where you don't expect it and sharp practice where there shouldn't be. It's life writ large and then given a twist which ricochets through the lives of everyone on the street. I did see the twists coming, but it was no problem - rather a sense of understanding where the story was going. I was sorry to finish the book - I could have read a great deal more about Hexam Place.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you will love Portobello which is also by Ruth Rendell.

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