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The Scold's Bridle [Mass Market Paperback]

Minette Walters
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A dark and edgy saga Feb. 11 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Minette Walters is a terrific writer and certainly deserves the comparisons to Ruth Rendell and PD James. Yet, it's hard to know what to make of this compelling yet flawed book. Elderly Mathilda Gillespie, wealthy, eccentric and misanthropic, is found dead, gruesomely, with wrists slit and an ancient torture instrument on her head. Suicide, or murder? And what about that will?
Each chapter is prefaced, brilliantly, with an excerpt from Mathilda's diaries. Literate and erudite in a
period where women of her social position were destined purely for domestic ornamentation, her decades of vindictive bitterness all but spit at us from the pages.
There's a much more interesting and less homogeneous than usual cast of characters, and the wonderful dialog perfectly captures their varying classes, ages and personalities. The book is supposedly set in or near the present but apart from the occasional f-word and references to heroin and abortion, has a sort of
otherwordly timelessness of most classic British mysteries.
The motive behind the killing turns out to be weak, the final reconciliation of the main characters mawkish, and the intergenerational torture and other goings-on is laid on heavily enough to be almost slapstick in the end. But so assured and precise is the telling that The Scold's Bridle remains an enjoyable book. If you like British whodunnits, then read it, it's darker and edgier than most of them. I'll definitely be reading more Minette Walters.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A dark and edgy saga Feb. 11 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Minette Walters is a terrific writer and certainly deserves the comparisons to Ruth Rendell and PD James. Yet, it's hard to know what to make of this compelling yet flawed book. Elderly Mathilda Gillespie, wealthy, eccentric and misanthropic, is found dead, gruesomely, with wrists slit and an ancient torture instrument on her head. Suicide, or murder? And what about that will?
Each chapter is prefaced, brilliantly, with an excerpt from Mathilda's diaries. Literate and erudite in a
period where women of her social position were destined purely for domestic ornamentation, her decades of vindictive bitterness all but spit at us from the pages.
There's a much more interesting and less homogeneous than usual cast of characters, and the wonderful dialog perfectly captures their varying classes, ages and personalities. The book is supposedly set in or near the present but apart from the occasional f-word and references to heroin and abortion, has a sort of
otherwordly timelessness of most classic British mysteries.
The motive behind the killing turns out to be weak, the final reconciliation of the main characters mawkish, and the intergenerational torture and other goings-on is laid on heavily enough to be almost slapstick in the end. But so assured and precise is the telling that The Scold's Bridle remains an enjoyable book. If you like British whodunnits, then read it, it's darker and edgier than most of them. I'll definitely be reading more Minette Walters.
Was this review helpful to you?
4.0 out of 5 stars A well-told fascinating tale May 21 1998
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The title of The Scold's Bridle derives from a medieval torture device, an iron "cage" designed to fit over the head of a nagging woman - a "scold" - and stop the woman from talking (apparently with some sort of attached tongue holder). The bridle referenced in the title has long been owned and not infrequently used, even in modern times, by the perverse family of elderly Mathilda Gillespie, a bright somewhat profane elderly woman found dead in her bath, a la Marat, in the opening scenes of this odd mystery.
Mathilda has not been stabbed like Marat, however. Her wrists are slit, and her coiffure is maimed by the scold's bridle, which sits on her lifeless head, decorated all around with stinging nettles and Michaelmas daisies. Is this an ugly suicide statement by an atheist and iconoclast with chronic severe arthritic pain?...The themes of child abuse, substance abuse, misogyny, and gang rape are woven indelicately into this novel, and the result is a series of subplots that are barely credible at times and that are most certainly too neatly "solved" by the common sense and good intentions of the protagonist, Dr. Blakeney. One gets the impression of a slightly immature P.D. James in that the story is peopled with bizarre, borderline personalities, fascinating and unpredictable, but at times Minette Walters seems to design a weird psychological vision rather than describe a real personality or situation. Depth of characterization and storyline is sometimes lacking where it is most wanted.
Regardless of its shortcomings, the book is difficult to put down, superior to most of its genre, and an excellent read. The majority of characters are in fact well drawn and sympathetic, the primary plot is believable, the tension is constant, the structure - from the individual sentence to the interlacing of the subplots - is tight and talented in execution, and the ending is a surprise, as it should be.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Perverse entry in the English village mystery April 30 1998
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Minette Walters likes to experiment with all the sub-genres of the traditional mystery. In The Scold's Bridle we are treated to a perverse twist on the English village mystery complete with nosey parker neighbors and skeleton's in everyone's closets - some of these skeletons are fairly decomposed and very gruesome. I have to agree with one reader's comments that this book does take a while to start, but this is primarily due to Walter's love of character monologue. Damn, these people love to make speeches! She really should turn her hand to playwriting as this novel's plot is almost entirely revealed and the story moved forward through dialogue (or the sections of the diary which in film, or on the stage, would be done as voice-overs). I must disagree with all these whiney readers who find these despicable characters one-dimensional. Obviously, they haven't come across truly mean-spirited people in their lives. Believe me, there are thousands of nasty minded and cruel people all over the globe and they are just as three-dimensional and complex as the good people out there. I was introduced to Walter's work through a TV adaptation of The Sculptress and marveled at how she can make a character seem so thoroughly nasty in one scene and get us to feel sympathy for the same person moments later. The Scold's Bridle is populated with people like this and if all you want from a book is a reflection of the so-called real world then skip it. This is a facinating entertainment and a vivd work of imagination. How about that dialogue!
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart-Rending Tale of Trauma and Dysfunction
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... Read more
Published on Sept. 2 2010 by Debra Purdy Kong
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best!
Unfortunately, I didn't see the BBC TV series but it must have been great. Mathilda Gillespie is a bitter, nasty woman who is found dead in her bath, naked with her wrists slashed... Read more
Published on Feb. 8 2004 by Beverley Strong
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!
I discovered Walters by accident about 4 years ago when I found a copy of "The Sculptress". I loved it and I haven't enjoyed anything quite like it until now. Read more
Published on March 18 2002 by J. Colucci
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read for mystery lovers
Walters has woven a narrative that starts out rather slow and takes untilt he middle of the book to really get the reader interested. Read more
Published on Dec 19 2001 by Robert Knetsch
4.0 out of 5 stars The Scold's Bridle Review
All in all, I only gave this book a 4 because of the underdeveloped characters. I'll start with the bad stuff, then the good. Read more
Published on Dec 4 2000 by M. Chan
3.0 out of 5 stars Other Walters novels worked better for me
Minette Walters, The Scold's Bridle (St. Martin's, 1993)

A woman is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, with a medieval torture device strapped to her head, a... Read more
Published on Oct. 13 2000 by Robert Beveridge
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Her Best Novel
Having read The Sculptress and The Ice House, I looked forward to my next Walters book. I like the fact that she creates fresh characters with each story, rather than relying on a... Read more
Published on July 18 2000 by kanga
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favorite Walters Title.
Scold's Bridle is my favorite of all Minette Walters books. Her characters aren't totally sympathetic, or good, or evil for that matter. Read more
Published on June 23 2000 by Moe811
5.0 out of 5 stars Walter's a mistress of suspense
A very excellent example of british writing. Walters manages to involve classic poets in her work in a manner, that makes you go back and read up on your lit class edition of... Read more
Published on June 2 2000 by Didi
5.0 out of 5 stars Murder Mystery! Who killed Mathilda?
A very well written book, especially with the lines from Shakespear's plays. An attempt to solve a murder mystery using the theme of Shakespere's dramas such as King Lear and... Read more
Published on May 8 2000 by Lhamo Topgyal
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