Saint X Summary
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.
My Review of Saint X
This was my first book of 2020 and I was not disappointed!
Saint X is very much a blending of two genres — coming-of-age and mystery/suspense. As someone who enjoys true crime, and especially unsolved cases, this one immediately grabbed me. I don’t typically go for a straightforward mystery, but Saint X promises a bit more. In short, I came for the mystery but got a little something extra out of it. The mystery itself is stretched out through multiple viewpoints and speculation, adding pieces to the puzzle throughout the book. In between these bits, we flash forward to Claire’s time and meet a very different girl.
The social commentary here is heavy, but in a way that satisfied me rather than annoyed. Discussions of race and class resonate painfully, sometimes articulating what I myself couldn’t before. As an added bonus, Schaitkin is bold, daring to say what not many would. She also presents an intriguing viewpoint from one on the other side of our current pop-cultural fascination with true crime, through the story of the remaining sister Claire.
There are a lot of contrasting images and figures in this book, which is what made it such a dynamic story for me. Two very different sisters, two very different friends, and the changing settings — past and present, Saint X island and New York City. This book seems to do a little bit of everything, and is slippery to pin down. Luckily, this means that it holds something for just about any reader.
That being said, I think that Saint X could have easily bitten off more than it could chew, but Schaitkin manages all of the moving parts quite deftly. While I myself came to dislike Claire, I still had to admit that the story was compelling and provided enough to keep me interested. On that note, I think that Claire herself was the weakest part of the story for me. She had all of the factors that could have made her an interesting character, and yet I found myself unable to really connect with her. I never got a full sense of her as a person outside her sister’s death, which I suppose was the point, but if so, it was a little too harsh for me.
Otherwise, would say this is a read you should definitely grab if you have the chance.
Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin is scheduled to be released February 18, 2020. Although libro.fm and Celadon Books provided me with a free review copy, this did not in any way affect my review.