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Fiction Review

“The Scold’s Bridle” by Minette Walters

Walters, Minette. The Scold’s Bridle (1994)  
St. Martin’s, 365 pages, $5.99  paperback  
ISBN 0 312 95612 6

Recommended

Nobody is very concerned when the body of Mathilda Gillespie, a venomous old woman, is discovered in her bathtub. Mathilda apparently has committed suicide by slitting her wrists while wearing her scold’s bridle, an ancient iron instrument that fit around the head and into the mouth to immobilize the tongue and therefore bridle the speech of a scold—a nagging, cantankerous woman. Mathilda used the scold’s bridle, which had been in her family for generations, as a room decoration.

But an inquest determines that Mathilda’s death was murder, not suicide. Both Matilda’s daughter, the strikingly beautiful Joanna, and Joanna’s daughter, Ruth, are suspects; the three generations of women apparently hated each other and argued constantly. But when Mathilda’s will is read, the prime suspect becomes the old woman’s physician, Dr. Sarah Blakeney, to whom Mathilda leaves her entire estate. The only way that Blakeney, who had known Mathilda for only a year, can prove her innocence is by discovering who the real murderer is.

© 2001 by Mary Daniels Brown