Release Date: Today, February 18, 2020 / Available here from your local indie bookstore!
There are two sides to everything. Simple folk wisdom that we use and hear so much it’s almost meaningless. Nevertheless, it is still wisdom. And it is this universal dichotomy that Alexis Schaitkin examines in her excellent novel Saint X. Further, where I am today is rainy, foggy and gloomy, just nasty, so, heck yeah, let’s go to a Caribbean island. Saint X itself is an island with two sides. There’s the beautiful side where the resorts are, and the not so beautiful where the islanders go about their lives. The beautiful side is still relatively unspoiled, not overrun by tourists, so the Thomases congratulate themselves on their choice of vacation spot on Indigo Bay. Their two daughters, college freshman Alison and seven-year-old Clair, are of two minds about the whole thing. Pretty, vivacious Alison wants to party. Clair is a rather odd child, pale and awkward, an observer. On the last morning of their vacation, Clair wakes her parents and tells them that Alison is gone. Just gone. Her body is found sometime later under a beautiful waterfall on an uninhabited island overrun by goats. And two black men employed by the resort, Edwin and Clive, are suspected. She partied with them.
Ah, so it’s a murder mystery then? No, no, it most definitely is not. Certainly it is reminiscent of the famous Natalee Holloway disappearance on the island of Aruba. In this case, we know that there is a death, but, as in Natalee’s case, we don’t know if it’s a murder. Unquestionably there’s a mystery, and there are bereft parents, searches, law enforcement, news media, interrogations, witnesses, all that. However, the depth and unquestionable quality of this book places it well above a “murder mystery” in the customary sense of that term. Two sides. Heads, tails. Concave, convex. Beauty, squalor. Edwin and Clive. Alison and Clair.
Clair is left to grieve and come to terms for the rest of her life – her shining star of an older sister, the beautiful, accomplished girl who snuck out at night to party, drink and dance with Edwin and Clive. “My sister was an innocent, blameless in her horrific fate. And it was all her fault.” Edwin and Clive, too, must start over, and Clive moves to New York where Clair pursues him and, ultimately, develops an odd relationship with this man, built on both suspicion and trust. “I had to find a way to understand how truth and untruth make each other.” Saint X – truly excellent fiction.
Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by Celadon Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank the publisher, the author and NetGalley for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed herein are my own.