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To Fear A Painted Devil (1987)

To Fear a Painted Devil (1987)
3.6 of 5 Votes: 1
0345349512 (ISBN13: 9780345349514)
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To Fear A Painted Devil (1987)
To Fear A Painted Devil (1987)

About book: Ruth Rendell's "To Fear a Painted Devil" continues my flirtation with traditional British mystery. While quite dated (the novel feels a bit older than the 49 years since its publication), it is a nice and very fast read. This standalone mystery features a country doctor as the reluctant sleuth, and police is not mentioned even once.The story takes place in and around Linchester, which is a cluster of upscale houses in Nottinghamshire. In the set-up that takes almost half of this short novel we meet the characters and we learn about many secrets and lies in various relationships. On the top of marital tension and jealousy we have business conflicts between some parties. Let's also not forget thousands of hungry wasps.One of the main characters dies in suspicious circumstances, and Dr. Greenleaf, willingly or unwillingly helped by other members of the small community, eventually discovers the truth. While the plot is rather of boilerplate variety, the way that the mystery is solved neatly ties two of the main motifs, although there is definitely one plot twist too many. Characterizations are quite thin and the dramatis personae are just devices to move the plot. All in all, a disappointment, and a weaker work that Ms. Rendell's "From Doon with Death" that I review here.Two stars.

After delaying for years the reading of my first Ruth Rendell book, I certainly wasn’t disappointed! Rendell is a master at mystery writing…never putting the answers directly in front of you but rather leading you in what might or might not be the right direction. Either way, getting to the end of the book is a lot of fun, particularly if you like the subtleness of British mystery writing the way I do.Jacket notes: “Gossip in tiny Linchester is raised to new heights when young Patrick Selby dies on the night of his beautiful wife's birthday party. The whole neighborhood was there, witness to the horrible attack of wasps Peter suffered at the end of the evening. But did Peter die of the stings? Dr. Greenleaf thinks not. After all, wasps aren't the only creatures that kill with poison.”
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Jill Hutchinson
Ruth Rendell's writing always has just a bit of darkness to it in the midst of the mystery. This book, however, does not have the usual twisted undertones but still is a compelling story. Red herrings abound and the killer is not quite as easy to identify as one would imagine. Has the victim been killed by wasps, died from natural causes (not likely in a Rendell story) or is some secret in the lives of the neighborhood behind it? Read and discover the answer from this master of modern British mystery. A good read.
Your review echos my thoughts about this novel. I've read and enjoyed a lot of Ruth's later work but found this book not so easy to warm to. Thanks to your suggestion I will look for One Across, Two Down as my next non-Wexford Rendell to read.
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