Usually reliable Rendell disappoints with new mystery
THE ST. ZITA SOCIETY. By Ruth Rendell. Scribner. 272 pages. $26.
Past awards and the highest praise from respected fellow mystery writers do not guarantee that every book by a particular author will be as good as its predecessors.
Such is the case with Ruth Rendell’s disappointing new book, “The St. Zita Society.”
It begins with a chaotic introduction to almost a score of characters connected to Hexam Place, a residential street in London, and follows them for a few months with snapshots of this couple’s affair; that guy’s belief that his cell phone service provider is God; a man trying to do his job as chauffeur while having affairs with his employer’s wife and daughter; this woman’s inability to say no to anyone; and a bunch of other story lines.
There are so many tangents that the reader doesn’t get much chance to get involved, and many of the characters are so superficial and unsympathetic that even when bad things happen to them, the reader doesn’t care.
Two people are murdered in the course of the book, but not only is there no resolution of the crimes, there’s little resolution to any of the characters’ stories. Really, Rendell manages just the opposite, and the reader must wonder about what will or won’t happen after the book ends.
Rather, the reader would wonder what happened next if by the end of the book the reader cared.
Leaving so many threads dangling might lead one to think that a sequel is in the works, but it seems doubtful. Sequels require characters that one cares about sufficiently, or at least characters that stand out, and there are none in “The St. Zita Society.”
Reviewer Carol Edwards, a freelance editor and farmer living in Marlboro County