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The Saint Zita Society    by Ruth Rendell order for
Saint Zita Society
by Ruth Rendell
Order:  USA  Can
Hutchinson, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Although Ruth Rendell is a renowned mystery author, and a death is covered up and followed by attempted murder in The Saint Zita Society, it does not read like a mystery but more like a contemporary novel with a strong psychological component.

The story swirls around the residents and servants who share one block of a posh London street, Hexam Place. There is the elderly duo of the self styled Princess and her companion June, who also walks her dog. There is kindly Dr. Jefferson, his chauffeur Jimmy and Dex, whom the good doctor and others hire to look after their gardens. Dex's mobile phone gives him messages from his god, Peach, and he sees evil spirits - he was institutionalized for trying to kill his mother, but was cured and released.

Zinnia cleans for the Princess and the Stills. Montserrat is the Still family au pair (her main duties seem to be facilitating Mrs. Still's affair with June's great-nephew, soap opera actor Rad Sothern). Rabia, the Stills' nanny, has a tragic past. The Studley's chauffeur, Henry, is sleeping with both Lord Studley's wife Oceane and his daughter Huguette, and is terrified of getting caught by any of them. Thea is not technically a servant but can never say no to the 'little jobs' her landlords, gay Damian and Roland, demand of her.

As the novel opens, many of the servants are in their local pub, where June is establishing the Saint Zita Society - Zita was 'the patron saint of domestic servants and she gave her food and clothes to the poor.' Life goes on calmly in Hexam Place, along with regular meetings of the society, until a seemingly accidental act of violence changes everything. The cover up is both hilarious and inept and leads to further violence, but in a very disorganized fashion.

Finally what goes around comes around in this fascinating, cleverly plotted psychological study of the entitled masters of Hexam Place and their less privileged Saint Zita Society servants. Rendell fans will not want to miss this one.

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