Cruelty and vengeance disturb the inhabitants of a third-rate English girls' school. By the author of Mother Love (1983) and Gemini (1985). It's the 1980's, but Malham House could have been created by Dickens or a Bronte. Once a Victorian mansion, the school is owned by an unspeakably cheap couple and so is able to attract only desperate teachers and children of the undiscriminating nouveau bourgeoisie, most of whom seem to work in the Middle East oil fields. Ramona Charnley teaches the youngest girls, a job for which she is barely qualified, and is housed in a servant's room. Her life seems dreadful enough, but it is made even worse by the arrival of Rosalind Tuck, a beautiful but badly spoiled upper-form girl who seems to have it in for mousy Ramona. Shortly after disciplining Rosalind, Ramona discovers that her bedclothes and mattress have been soaked in water; the girls label her a bedwetter. Another rebuke is followed by worse vandalism: all of Ramona's possessions are strewn with yellow paint. A budding friendship with a brainy young student and her retired schoolteacher aunt puts backbone into Ramona, who begins to plot vengeance. She arranges an accident. Unfortunately, the victim turns out to be not Rosalind but one of her followers. Then, when Rosalind wins the admiration of Ramona's only friend, Ramona declares war to the death. An agreeably bleak and very English thriller. Low key, but thoroughly nasty.