A whopping ú10 million bequest has divided St. Martha's College, Cambridge, into three factions bitterly opposed over the use of the money. Dry-as-dust Dame Maud Buckbarrow's Virgins want to dedicate it to old-line scholarship; insurgent Bridget Holdness's Dykes plot to establish a new Centre for Ethnic and Gender Studies; and embroidery king Francis Pusey's Old Women want to lay in some new carpeting and old port. The name-calling among the ``battleaxes, harpies, and thought police,'' as pipe- smoking Bursar Jack (neÇ Ida) Troutbeck calls them, proceeds with such high-spirited ferocity that it's quite a diminuendo when Dame Maud, the Mistress, is murdered, and her successor follows hard on her sedate heels. Luckily for the sexist, racist, clueless local constabulary, Jack's civil-service friend Robert Amiss is on hand to spot the odd clue, bring the symbolic matricide to justice, and clear the way for improbably rosy prophecies of St. Martha's unruffled future. Amiss (Clubbed to Death, 1992, etc.) is disappointingly colorless this time out. But Edwards, who's obviously put in her time among academic airheads of every stripe, provides an entertaining sideshow of overeducated knaves and fools.