Winner of Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger Award.
Minette Walters is England's bestselling female crime writer. She has written 11 novels and has won the CWA John Creasey Award, the Edgar Allan Poe Award and two CWA Gold Daggers for Fiction. Minette Walters lives in Dorset with her husband and two children.
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.
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. (Oct.)