Wednesday, June 4, 2014

To Fear a Painted DevilTo Fear a Painted Devil by Ruth Rendell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

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.

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