Droopy psychological suspense in a large house in Oxford--where old, bored Patience Merriman, once the wife of a famous professor, now takes pleasure only in vindictive behavior. She quietly terrorizes her 40-ish daughter Romola, whom she hates for not being male. She delights in creating emotional havoc for the succession of young couples who rent the upstairs quarters. And now Patience has combined her two areas of evil meddling: she convinces current tenant Brenda Kingston (wife of brilliant grad student Laurie) that Romola is plotting to kill her . . . while Romola finds a much-needed ally in Laurie. (Patience has banished Romola's only other friend: longtime family doctor Geoffry Forrest.) Despite some suspense in the early pages and Patience's non-stop skulking about: another large ho-hum from the erratic, prolific Clarke--with Patience too one-dimensionally evil, Romola too devoid of spunk, and the other characters too thoroughly lackluster.