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Tamsin and Patrick Selby have an unhappy marriage. Tamsin is a beautiful young woman just on the verge of turning 27. Her husband, who also happens to be her first cousin, is very controlling, down to dictating what kind of clothes his wife should wear (plain in subdued colours), whether she should wear makeup (she shouldn't) and how she is to keep the house (immaculate). They live in a beautiful house in the fictional housing development of Linchester, Nottinghamshire, and Tamsin has invited their neighbours to a get-together she's organized for her birthday. Patrick is rude to her and the guests throughout, and when he gets repeatedly stung by several wasps, no one is much chagrinned by his plight, nor when he is found dead the next day. The local doctor doesn't believe in foul play until some persistent gossiping leads him to investigate a little further to find out if there's any truth to claims that beautiful Tamsin had something to do with Patrick's death. There is an interesting sub-plot having to do with a painting of John the Baptist's head on a bloody platter and it's a good enough story, but none of the characters made much of an impression on me.
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I have decided to purchase all of Rendell's non-Wexford books via Audible - this was the first one of its kind. It's the story of the lives and loves of a tiny fictional village of Linchester which was built on the site of a former manor house.
The whole thing reminded me of a non-Roald Dahl edition of 'Tales Of The Unexpected', yes, it was that bad. I know that it's a very early work, but it's barely discernable as a Rendell at all. The characters were all two-dimensional and I couldn't work out who was who. I fell as listening more than once, which didn't help matters.
In conclusion: the title 'To Fear A Painted Devil' pertains to wasps. I didn't enjoy the book and got my credit back as per Audible's guarantee.