A dank, dark gothic tale with none of the stylistic excesses of the genre: in fact, Glaister's narrator, an elderly woman living with three sisters in a houseful of nasty secrets, tells their story with an English country-woman's open-faced simplicity--which gives the horrid events a poignant backdrop. Narrator Milly, touching 80, begins her memories of the past-- revisited time after time--as older sister Agatha is banging and scraping the floor in an attic bedroom; the mirror-image twins, Ellen and Esther (always called ``Ellenanesther''), murmur below to each other; and ``poor baby George'' (who will make an impressive later appearance) is in the basement. Milly wanders back to the past to remember a fragile loving mother (with her memories of jewels and white tablecloths and a man who wouldn't marry her) and a terrifying father, who abused her mother (she disappeared forever in the waters behind the dike), who drove away the family's only kind neighbors, and who would one day rob Milly of the young man she loved. Why did the sisters stay in Father's house? Why not finish packing instead of leaving things-to-be-packed to become, years later, soft, gray, dusty cloth amid the rubbish, old food, mold and cat hairs? Hang in there until the close (when the flood waters, along with the reader's gorge, are rising), and all will be revealed, including poor baby George. Decay and devastation in an evil father's house: a chilly first novel in which a lumbering horror plot is handled with skill and restraint.