When senior Mathilda Gillespie commits suicide, no one in her village seems to mind very much except her doctor, Sarah Blakeney, one of the few people who'd actually liked Mathilda. Sarah finds it odd that Mathilda died by cutting her wrists in the bath while wearing a scold's bridle entwined with flowers. That she wore a barbaric contraption once used to silence talkative women is strange in itself, but how would she have managed to carefully weave the flowers all the way around her head, especially when the autopsy shows that she'd taken a fair amount of barbiturates? Needless to say, neither Sarah or investigating officers believe Mathilda committed suicide.
The Scold's Bridle is a heart-rending tale of a family who's taken dysfunction to a new level. While the family at first seems rather hateful, if not pathetic, author Minette Walters does a superb job of layering back the malicious, selfish layers to reveal deep-seated pain that made me more sympathetic to the characters as the story unfolded. At over 450 pages, the book isn't a fast read, but it is a thought-provoking one which takes a hard look at the ramifications of family secrets, desires, and misunderstandings, past and present. This is an excellent, emotionally charged read.