Ruth Rendell has a remarkable ability to illustrate completely ordinary looking people, then to dig a little deeper and find a very disturbing horror story. I can remember feeling shivers when reading ‘The Bridesmaid’ and ‘Thirteen Steps Down’. With The Saint Zita Society she’s done it again – reminding us that criminals are normally ordinary looking people and that impossible situations can morph from mishandling simple mistakes.
Saint Zita is the patron saint of domestic servants, so in a well-to-do area of London, the domestic staff form a group called the Saint Zita Society. They meet in a local pub and discuss issues they can’t really do much about.
The staff of Hexham Place include: June – an elderly lady’s companion, Thea – not employed by anyone but doing unpaid favours for everyone, Jimmy – a driver and general helper for a good-natured doctor, Rabia – a Muslim nanny who is completely devoted to her youngest charge, Monserat – an au-pair who does as little as possible, Henry – a driver who is sleeping with both his employer’s wife and daughter, Dex – a gardener who works for a number of households and believes that he is under instruction from a God that talks to him on his mobile phone, and several others.
We see the tension build as one member of staff smuggles in the man who her employer is having an affair with and the rest of the neighbourhood turns a blind eye. Eventually there is a death along with a body disposal and cover-up. Then Dex’s God starts to give him instructions regarding the residents of Hexham Place.
During the novel we find out about the hidden flaws of all the characters – greed, selfishness, insecurity, laziness and self-justification.
This was a brilliant and very chilling novel. The best and worst in all the characters could exist in anyone you know without you ever knowing it. A highly recommended book if you like creepy stories!
Book Published 2012