Hexam Place is an upper class street in Pimlico, London. It is inhabited by doctors, business tycoons, Lords and even a third tier "princess". Their au pairs, nannies, maids, chauffeurs, gardeners and live-in companions also live there and meet regularly in a local pub called the Dugong. These domestic workers decide to form a toothless association named after St. Zita, the patron saint of servants, that serves mainly as a venue to air their grievances.
The street is neat and orderly but the lives of those who live behind its doors are anything but. A mentally deranged gardener, recently released from an insane asylum after attempting to murder his mother, makes an early appearance in the book and we wait for him to make his move. A handyman who arrives late to fix a loose railing is inadvertently responsible for the death of a soap opera star. Complicity in the coverup of the death makes strange bedfellows of a snobby tycoon and his family's au pair. Attacks on redheads are a fad in London, a fad that leads to the killing of a resident of Hexum Place but not, as might be expected, by ginger bashers. A chauffeur tries to juggle his affairs with both the wife and daughter of his employer, Lord Studley. A hungry urban that appears several times throughout the book is an equal opportunity scavenger, taking what it can from the street.
At 82 years of age Rendell has published a very humourous social commentary on sex, politics and the class system that is still very evident in modern day London. It's a farce spiced up with intrigue and several murders. My one criticism of the book is that there are a lot of characters to keep track of but Rendell does a masterful job of pulling all the threads together in the end.