Saint X by Alex Schaitkin
Title: Saint X
Author: Alex Schaitkin
Publisher: Picador, Pan MacMillan
Published Date: February 18th 2020
Length: 343 pages
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Rating: 4.25 /5
Claire is only seven years old when her college-age sister, Alison, disappears on the last night of their family vacation at a resort on the Caribbean island of Saint X. Several days later, Alison’s body is found in a remote spot on a nearby cay, and two local men – employees at the resort – are arrested. But the evidence is slim, the timeline against it, and the men are soon released. The story turns into national tabloid news, a lurid mystery that will go unsolved. For Claire and her parents, there is only the return home to broken lives.
Years later, Claire is living and working in New York City when a brief but fateful encounter brings her together with Clive Richardson, one of the men originally suspected of murdering her sister. It is a moment that sets Claire on an obsessive pursuit of the truth – not only to find out what happened the night of Alison’s death but also to answer the elusive question: Who exactly was her sister? At seven, Claire had been barely old enough to know her: a beautiful, changeable, provocative girl of eighteen at a turbulent moment of identity formation.
As Claire doggedly shadows Clive, hoping to gain his trust, waiting for the slip that will reveal the truth, an unlikely attachment develops between them, two people whose lives were forever marked by the same tragedy.
I took too long to write this review and it’s probably going to show. I finished the book earlier this week and well, because of the weird schedule I have, I am pretty sure I am forgetting to add some part, the notes I made don’t indicate that but the feeling is still there. So…I apologise for that.
I think Saint X is a brilliant little gem of a book that I am so glad that I read. The book starts with a family vacationing on some non-existing island but goodness, the author did such a great job of detailing everything and painting such a picture that I almost Googled the island. The story really starts when Alison is, first missing and then, found dead away from her family and leaving behind a devastated family. Alison is perhaps not likable and I kinda like that? She’s a privileged teenager and it shows.
Claire, her younger sister, really cared for her sister and is absolutely devastated to hear that her sister is not coming back. Claire is seven years old when her sister dies. The story really gets going when Claire is an adult and living in New York. She actually ends up bumping into one of the suspects from her sister’s case and that catapults her into a discovery of many things. Just as Alison wasn’t a likable character, Claire isn’t a perfectly likable character and I am seriously glad of it.
In fact, now that I remember I didn’t like any of the characters but I liked that they were interesting and the author’s writing really did wonders for keeping my attention engaged. I think for a debut novel, the author really put together such a great character study that also included thoughts on race, privilege and class. Schaitkin’s writing is such a huge part of why I liked the book and it’s a pity that I can’t explain in words how much I loved it. So, I can only say that, please, if you can, read this book.
I am so glad that I got an early access to the book despite the fact that I am very, very late to reading and reviewing it.