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The Scold's Bridle Mass Market Paperback – 1995


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: St Martins Pr (1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312956126
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312956127
  • Product Dimensions: 10.8 x 2.1 x 17.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,353,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
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.
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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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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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By A Customer on May 21 1998
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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