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The Scold’s Bridle

‘I wonder if I should keep these diaries under lock and key. Jenny Spede has disturbed them again…What does she make, I wonder, of an old woman, deformed by arthritis, stripping naked for a young man? The pills worry me more. Ten is such a round number to be missing…’

Mathilda Gillespies body was found nearly two days after she had taken an overdose and slashed her wrists with a Stanley knife. But what shocked Dr Sarah Blakeney the most was the rusted metal cage obscuring the dead womans face – a scolds bridle grotesquely adorned with a garland of nettles and Michaelmas daisies. 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 – Mathildas GP for barely a year – has inherited everything. Already deeply troubled by recent events, Sarah is thrown into turmoil as she suddenly becomes the target of some vicious local gossip. Almost everyone in Fontwell, it seems, had loathed Mathilda Gillespie – even enough to want her dead. With Sergeant Cooper her only ally, Sarah decides to find out why. But only Mathilda’s diaries can fully explain the life she led before her terrible death. And Mathilda’s diaries have disappeared…


‘What her books have in common is an atmosphere of tantalising, uncertain but overpowering menace… Like her first novel, THE ICE HOUSE, her latest takes place in an English village, complete with the usual trimmings. But it is far from cosy. The trappings may be the big house, sleepy coppers, teeming family secrets and lots of gossiping; but the execution is edgy and very disturbing…(Minette Walters) is a rare talent possessed of unnerving imagination.’ The Times

‘powerful and absorbing, with a neatly dovetailed plot and characters who stick in the mind.’ Daily Mail

‘A novel that marries intelligent romance with acute suspense.’ The Express

‘It is, of course, superbly written’ The Sunday Telegraph

‘This third mystery should solidify her position as one of the most impressive new talents in the field. It’s an English village mystery with a difference, about an old woman found dead in her bath with a scold’s bridle – a medieval muzzle used to silence nagging women – over her head. Walters, who is often compared with Ruth Rendell and PD James, is perhaps even more compulsively readable.’ Denver Post