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The Scold's Bridle [Large Print] [Hardcover]

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

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Book Description

January 1995 G K Hall Large Print Book Series
Mathilda Gillespie's body was found nearly two days after she had taken an overdose and slashed her wrists with a utility knife. But what shocked Dr. Sarah Blakeney the most was the rusted metal cage obscuring the dead woman's face - a medieval instrument of torture called a scold's bridle grotesquely adorned with a garland of nettles and Michaelmas daises. What happened at Cedar House in the tortured hours before Mathilda's death? Detective Sergeant Cooper, an elderly policeman nearing retirement, is under pressure from his superiors to bring in a verdict of suicide. And even Mathilda's daughter and granddaughter insist that illness drove her to commit the desperate, final act. Only Sarah and her husband, Jack, refuse to believe that the Mathilda they knew would have taken her own life. Then comes the reading of Mathilda's Last Will and Testament, which shocks her family into a stunned and bitter silence. For Dr. Sarah Blakeney has inherited everything.
--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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From Publishers Weekly

Britain's Walters, whose The Sculptress won the 1993 Edgar for best novel, excels at depicting monstrously dysfunctional families and the murder and mayhem they wreak; and old Mathilda Gillespie's clan is a humdinger. The daughter of this bitter, snobbish, nasty-minded recluse is a prostitute on dope; the granddaughter's a schoolgirl being blackmailed into theft by a rapist lover. Gillespie's own past contains its share of feeblemindedness, violence, booze, abortion and incest. When the old woman is found dead in her bathtub, a peculiar medieval device over her head (the "scold's bridle" of the title), there is no shortage of suspects in her Dorset village. Both the local woman doctor, one of the few people who could tolerate the dead woman, and the cynical artist husband from whom she is separating spar with empathetic Detective Sgt. Cooper as they search for a killer. The fact that it takes these very bright people longer to figure out the perpetrator than it does a not-especially-smart reader is the chief strike against this otherwise intelligent and enjoyable-if slightly overplotted-mystery, which is essentially an English cozy with distinctly quirky overtones.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Oddly enough, the suicide death of an ill-tempered, snobbish, rude old lady arouses the indignation of local villagers when they learn she willed her fortune to her physician, Dr. Sarah Blakeney, instead of to her own (nasty) daughter and (thieving) granddaughter. Police suspect murder, though, so their investigation creates problems for Sarah. She and her snide, freeloading husband become enmeshed in the intricacies of the dead woman's life-snippets of which introduce each chapter. Articulate and sophisticated prose, complicated plot, imaginative characters, and psychological intensity give this British title high marks.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart-Rending Tale of Trauma and Dysfunction Sept. 2 2010
By Debra Purdy Kong TOP 500 REVIEWER
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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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?
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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Most recent customer reviews
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Cat Got your Tounge? Not When It Comes To Minette Walters!
The Scold's Bridle is one of Minette's best! When the old lady that everyone in Fontwell hates dies a myesterious death in her bathtub - people breathe a sigh of relief. Read more
Published on Dec 2 1999 by Karen Bierman Hirsh
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