Saint X

Book Title: Saint X
Author: Alexis Schaitkin
Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020
Genres: Literary Suspense, Crime Fiction
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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.


“That night, Claire is awakened by the sound of a key rattling in the lock. As she surfaces from dreams, she watches the door to the hotel room open. Her sister tiptoes across the room and slides into bed. In the morning Claire wakes at dawn to find her sister’s bed empty. She is on the balcony, her eyes fixed on something in the distance. It seems her sister is hardly sleeping at all.”

The problem with reading a book and putting off writing the review for weeks is that the small details begin to fade, but Saint X is the type of read that requires deep thought and pondering before discussing. I’m still not sure I can do a review of this book justice, as it is so many aspects put into one cohesive timeline. Part true crime style mystery, part delayed coming of age, Saint X provides a suspenseful investigation coupled with self discovery of the protagonist.

This was an eye-opening glance at how deep the ties between race and privilege run. The author did a fantastic job of creating a unique narrative while touching on themes as old as time, and bringing attention to just how far America, and us privileged folks in general, needs to progress. The pacing is very slow and detailed, which works well for this type of story, but is told in such a riveting voice. This isn’t a thriller per se, but it does take on a few of the qualities that fans of psychological suspense find appealing. If you’re interested in other recent literary fiction novels featuring social justice discussions, such as American Dirt, please consider giving your time to this worthy story as well.

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.



Alexis Schaitkin’s short stories and essays have appeared in Ecotone, Southwest Review, the Southern Review, and other journals. Her fiction has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. She received her MFA in fiction from the University of Virginia. She lives in Williamstown, Massachusetts with her husband and their son. Saint X is her debut novel.



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