Awards: Winner CWA Gold Dagger Award 1994, UK
'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...
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