The Saint Zita Society

by Ruth Rendell (Hutchinson) R235, 00 ISBN: 9780091944056 



The workers of Hexam Place, an exclusive street of Georgian houses, decide to form The Saint Zita Society. Zita was the patron saint of domestic workers. 

Rendell fills the pages with psychologically damaged characters. Upstairs, we have the unhappily married Preston and Lucy Still; The Princess; Dr Jefferson; Lord and Lady Studley; Damian and Roland. Downstairs, we have au pair, Montserrat, nanny, Rabia and cook, Zinnia; housekeeper, June; chauffeur, Beacon, gardener, Dex; chauffeur, Henry; unpaid servant, Thea. 

Rad Sothern, television star, and Lucy’s lover, is accidentally killed by her husband. Montserrat persuades him to cover up the crime and the two dispose of the body. Dex, who tried to kill his mother as a child, and who has been rehabilitated, is then instructed to dispose of Montserrat by Peach, the god who lives in his cell phone. Henry, who is shagging both Lady Studley and her daughter, Huguette, appears for some reason or the other. Rabia, who loves the Stills’ children too much, watches as her employers begin divorce proceedings. Thea is about to marry Jimmy, although she doesn’t love him. And so it goes. 

Lost yet? I was. Constantly. As much as I love Rendell’s writing, I could not tolerate the extra characters in this book. It is a feat that she manages to weave some of their lives together. The book would have been better with half of them deleted. Rendell writes another urban caper. The problem with this one is the dearth of likeable characters, and lack of cohesive plot. I am not sure why I finished the book. 

Amanda Patterson
2/5

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Gangster Squad

by Paul Lieberman (Pan) ISBN: 9781447222309 



Warner Brothers developed the film Gangster Squad based on the research journalist Paul Lieberman conducted for this book. He spent a decade interviewing surviving members of the unit as well as families and associates of the mobsters. 

The blurb promises that Gangster Squad is a tour-de-force narrative reminiscent of LA Confidential. It isn’t.  Lieberman writes about the lives of the members of the Gangster Squad – ‘eight men who met covertly on street corners and slept with Tommy guns under their beds’ – while they watch the mafia. The problem is the policemen concerned aren't that interesting. Decent dedicated lawmen having dinner do not make a riveting read. He writes about the LA Mafia, but the characters, Mickey Cohen, Jack Dragna, and others, are almost as boring as the men watching them. 

There is a lack of focus and conflict. Nothing much happens. And then there’s the writing. Clichés and twee phrases abound. What self-respecting crime writer pens phrases like ‘There were no guarantees in police work, or in life ...’ or ‘all those men had marvellous dark hair’? I’m sure the film will be better. 

Amanda Patterson
2/5

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Spud – Exit, Pursued by a Bear

by John van de Ruit (Penguin) ISBN: 9780143530244


Spud Milton has finished school and vanished into his future. Matric, with its agonies: maths, strange school rituals, The Glock, Mermaid; and its ecstasies: drama, cricket, The Guv, Mermaid; has ended. The Crazy Eight have grown up. Spud has changed over the four books - in a good way.
I enjoyed reading the fourth novel as much as any of the others. Once again, I was struck by the simple fact that the series has been so successful because the books are just about a boy dealing with the difficulties of growing up. For South Africans, that pleasure is rare. We usually have to trudge through a political mess of meaning if we want to read a local author. Van de Ruit is also a very good writer. His comedic timing and talent is as brilliant as ever. He has polished his style, and his writing has improved with each book.
South African fiction was given a second chance when Spud was published. I hope to see many more novels like these. I am grateful that Spud Milton enriched the reading lives of so many young South Africans. 

Amanda Patterson
4/5

Wicked Business

by Janet Evanovich (Headline Review) ISBN: 9780755384938 



Lizzy Tucker and Diesel are back. Lizzy was living a normal life baking cupcakes in Salem, until she discovered she had a secret power to find enchanted relics. Lizzy wishes she didn’t have the power. Her life was far less complicated. Now she spends her time chasing after stones that have the power to destroy the world. 

The delicious Diesel needs Lizzy to find the stones so that he can get them back to the ‘office’ for safekeeping. His evil cousin, Wulf, and his sidekick, Hatchet also want the stones. This caper continues where Wicked Appetite ended. Lizzy’s boss Clara, and her ditzy friend and co-worker, Glo play their roles. Then Deirdre Early aka Anarchy makes an appearance and I had a sense of déjà vu. 

Sound familiar? I was reading Stephanie Plum all over again. Clara is Connie, Glo is Lula, Diesel is Joe, Wulf is Ranger, The Bakery is The Bail Bonds Office. Deirdre is Joyce Barnhardt. The only difference is we have some magic added in this series. I felt duped. 
Evanovich writes as well as ever. She is easy to read, and the book is harmless fun. However, I don’t think I’m going to invest any more time in this rip-off of her other successful series. I’ve already read 18 of them. 

Amanda Patterson
3/5

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XO

by Jeffery Deaver (Hodder & Stoughton) ISBN: 9780340937327 R195 



Kayleigh Towne, a beautiful young singing superstar, signs her fan mail XO. Most fans realise this is a form email sent to millions, but Edwin Sharp loves Kayleigh a little more than the average fan. And that XO means everything to him. Edwin sends gifts, mails messages to her private address and he knows everything about her. When he arrives in Fresno for a concert, Kayleigh and her entourage are stunned. 

Kathryn Dance, music lover, is in town. Dance is a police officer, an agent with the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI). She is also Kayleigh’s friend. Dance is an expert in kinesics, but stalkers are the most difficult criminals to read. They believe their version of the truth. It is their reality. 

A series of murders begin. The killer targets people close to Kayleigh, using the lyrics of Kayleigh’s song, Your Shadow to let everyone know he is about to kill. Dance joins the investigation. Is Sharp the killer? He cannot be tied to the murders. His intimate knowledge of Kayleigh is available to anybody from dedicated ‘stalker’ fan sites. The murders continue, new suspects emerge, and Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs make a guest appearance. 

XO twists and turns and never disappoints. I finished the book in less than a day. Deaver is the master of the art of plotting stories of personal terror. His characters are complex, his dialogue is simple, and his pacing is perfect. 

Amanda Patterson
5/5 

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Divergent

by Veronica Roth (HarperCollins) R98, 00 ISBN9780007420421 


Beatrice is 16. Born into a world with five factions, it is time for her to decide where she belongs. She turns her back on her world. She feels as if she is not the same as her parents and her brother, Caleb. Or is she? She does not feel as if she belongs anywhere. 

Known as Tris in this new world, her choice takes her on a brutal journey, filled with violence and the discovery that nothing is as it seems. She falls in love with Four, the instructor who seems to take her under his wing. She discovers how brave she really is and makes new friends and new enemies. 

Roth writes well. The book is interesting. It is a good read. But it lacks the magic that sets it apart. It feels hollow to me, although I am not sure how I would improve it. A good enough Young Adult Dystopian read.   

Amanda Patterson
3/5

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Between a Mother and her Child

by Elizabeth Noble (Penguin) ISBN: 9780718155377 R195 



Maggie & Bill have a good life. Wealthy, privileged, and still in love after 20 years, their marriage is almost perfect. Isn’t it? 
Then Jake, their eldest son, dies. Maggie sacrificed her career as an Australian Olympic swimmer for Bill when she became pregnant. She moved to London with him and settled into her new role. She never regretted it. But now, after their beautiful son’s death, what does it all mean? 

Two years later, their daughter, Aly continues to achieve. Stan is a special needs child, and Maggie and Bill deal with that too. But the loss exposes cracks in their relationships. Tiny fissures that weren’t noticeable before. But the new emotions push through relentlessly, and change whatever is left of those bonds as well. 

Maggie asks Bill to leave. He copes by talking, and doing. She wants to be left alone. Olivia, Maggie’s sister, arrives from Australia for Christmas, and a slow healing process takes shape.  Elizabeth Noble has tackled a difficult subject. She dissects the layers of grief through a parent’s worst nightmare - the death of a child. There is a truth in her writing and you will feel heartbroken, and then hopeful, after reading this novel. 

Amanda Patterson
4/5

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Daughter of Smoke and Bone

by Laini Taylor (Hodder & Stoughton) ISBN: 9781444722635 R180, 00 



Karou is the beautiful girl with the blue hair who doesn't belong. She doesn't know where she comes from and nobody will tell her. She lives in two worlds, 'Elsewhere' and Earth. She runs errands for Brimstone, who raised her, and lives as a 17-year-old art student in Prague for the rest. 

Enter Akiva, the angel who wants to kill her. But he's smitten as he observes, "It was like stepping into the pages of a book - a book alive with colour and fragrance, filth and chaos - and the blue-haired girl moved through it all like a fairy through a story, the light treating her differently than it did others, the air seeming to gather around her like held breath. As if this whole place were a story about her." 

The doors to ‘Elsewhere’ are closing. Karou has to find out who she is, and what her destiny is. The novel is beautifully written. Taylor weaves words with myths with dreams. However, I found she lost me in the last third of the book when things became too unbelievable. Even for this book. 

Amanda Patterson
3.5/5

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Entanglement

by Steven Boykey Sidley (Picador Africa) ISBN: 9781770102149 


Entanglement is pretentious, boring and badly-written. It is a perfect example of a debut novelist who has somehow become published before he has learnt the craft of novel-writing. 

Jared is having a mid-life crisis. Trapped in academia, and horrified by the stupidity of people, he is confronted with a few traumatic experiences. Not even these allowed me to see past the fact that Jared is a truly unlikeable protagonist. It takes a brilliant writer to write a passable antihero, and Sidley is not a good storyteller. It was impossible to believe that arrogant, opinionated Jared had friends and a ‘perfect’ girlfriend. 

The author tells, and tells, and tells. Writers need to show, as all good readers, and writers, know. Ironically, the endless babble in Jared’s head is what Jared hates most. It is stupid. The first 30 pages were useless backstory. I would have abandoned the book then if I did not have to review it. The book is also difficult to read - printed in a font that is too small, and on white paper, much like a school text book. 
Amanda Patterson
0/5

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The Sins of the Father

by Jeffrey Archer (Macmillan) ISBN: 9780230748231 



Jeffrey Archer has topped bestseller lists worldwide, with book sales of over 270 million copies. 

The Sins of the Father is the second in his five-book Clifton Chronicles saga. Written in the perfect family saga tradition, Archer is comfortably in his element. Harry Clifton arrives in the United States in 1939. As he leaves the ship, he is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, and sent to jail for 6 years.

In prison, he turns to books as a way to preserve his sanity. After a few months of hell, and some clever manipulation, he starts working in the library. He writes The Diary of a Convict, and this allows him to write down his truth. He has a record of who he really is and what really happened, and it allows Emma Barrington, the love of his life, to find him.

We are also afforded glimpses into the lives of Giles Barrington, Maisie Clifton and Hugo Barrington. The novel ends in 1945 with a twist in the tale as all good Archer novels do. If you enjoy family sagas, you will love The Sins of the Father

Amanda Patterson
3/5 

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