#473 ~ The St. Zita Society

The St. Zita Society by Ruth Rendell

Published by: Scribner

Published on: August 14, 2012

Page Count: 257

Genre: Fiction

My Reading Format: Audiobook review copy sent to me by the publisher for consideration

Audiobook Published by: Simon and Schuster Audio

Narrator: Carol Boyd

Audiobook Length: 8 hours 22 minutes

Audio Sample: There is a sample available on Simon and Schuster’s website.

Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, and Audiobook

Summary from the Publisher

Life for the residents and servants of Hexam Place appears placid and orderly on the outside: drivers take their employers to and from work, dogs are walked, flowers are planted in gardens, and Christmas candles lit uniformly in windows. But beneath this tranquil veneer, the upstairs-downstairs relationships are set to combust.

Henry, the handsome valet to Lord Studley, is sleeping with both the Lord’s wife and his university-age daughter. Montserrat, the Still family’s lazy au pair, assists Mrs. Still in keeping secret her illicit affair with a television actor—in exchange for pocket cash. June, the haughty housekeeper to a princess of dubious origin, tries to enlist her fellow house-helpers into a “society” to address complaints about their employers. Meanwhile, Dex, the disturbed gardener to several families on the block, thinks a voice on his cell phone is giving him godlike instructions—commands that could imperil the lives of all those in Hexam Place.

The St. Zita Society is Ruth Rendell at her brilliant best—a deeply observed and suspenseful novel of murder in the quintessentially London world of servants and their masters.

My Review

When reading The St. Zita Society, it is important to pay especially careful attention until you’ve got a good grasp on all of the characters. There are quite a few and it was almost to the point where I created a chart with the house number, the occupants, and their links to people in the other houses on Hexam Place. Once I got a handle on the characters, I enjoyed watching them interact with each other and the various happenings on the street. Every single character had an agenda and not all agendas were logical, let alone selfish.

While there were some darker happenings in The St Zita Society, I found this to be more of a character study than a mystery or thriller. In one sense, I was disappointed. I was looking forward to a spooky modern take on the upstairs/downstairs relationship. As a character study, however, I was thoroughly entertained. I loved the schemes and the snobbery. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of those who few who lived by their values surrounded by many more who live by their own rules.

Carol Boyd is a talented narrator. Her vocal range meshed well with the characters in The St. Zita Society. I enjoyed her Middle Eastern accents and her work on Montserrat’s character. Her tone was perfect, especially during the more conspiratorial scenes. I look forward to listening to more of her work as she makes listening to audiobooks a pleasant and entertaining experience.

While I didn’t find this novel to be terribly suspenseful, I very much enjoyed it for exactly what it was. Ruth Rendell brought this modern upper middle class neighborhood in London to life. I loved her writing and the way she wove her complex characters and storylines together. The St. Zita Society makes for a perfect read on a chilly fall day.

Read as part of Stainless Steel Dropping’s R.I.P. Reading Challenge.


  • At 2012.09.21 13:26, Sandy said:

    She is kind of a master, isn’t she? I was sitting here trying to remember which of her books I’ve read (definitely have read The Rottweiler and I loved it) and she has a freaking million books to her name. I do remember her characterization was almost unparalleled.

    • At 2012.09.22 10:36, JoAnn said:

      I’ve enjoyed Ruth Rendell (wish I could remember the titles), but haven’t read her in a few years. Don’t know why I haven’t considered audio before…

      • At 2012.09.22 10:49, Jen - Devourer of Books said:

        This sounds lovely!

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        • At 2012.10.15 07:01, #479 ~ Abdication said:

          […] first listened to a Carole Boyd narration earlier this fall with The St. Zita Society. I loved the way her narration evoked a sense of London. With Abdication, I experienced Boyd’s […]

          (Required, will not be published)

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