Being eighty seemed to bring out all the mean nasty things. Like gin."" And wattled chins and mottled liver spots. And a certain confusion of the mind as well as the malfunctions of the body. Miss Dickens has noticed it all, in acute detail, but the reader hardly suspects to what purpose for certainly half the book here, which takes place in an old. New England house, where old Sybil insists on living alone, until an accident (right after her grandson's marriage to an English girl, Jess) forces her to take a companion. First it is Melia Mulligan who tipples; then Dorothy Grue and her budgerigar whose chief eccentricity runs to homemade herbal cures. But behind the prosaic surface where the two ladies manage to achieve a workable existence there seems to be a more genuine presence of malevolence. Jess, who comes there at intervals, hears voices and sees things: she doesn't quite trust Sybil but Dorothy Grue is even more alarming and the last episode in the ""room upstairs"" fully justifies the reader's expectations of the worst which can happen and can be explained if not altogether shrugged off. Discomfiting, and certainly designed to catch and retain your attention, poised as it is between the disagreeable commonplace and the suggestion of something else. For the ladies, who will probably scurry right back to Victoria Holt for reassurance.