This is one of Ruth Rendell's early novels (first published in 1971), a bleak foray into greed and despair. Stanly and Vera live in a North London suburd along with Vera's mother, the caustic Maud, who hates her deadbeat son-in-law with a passion. The feelings are mutual from Stanley, who is constantly planning Maud's demise when he is not obsessed with his favorite hobby - crossword puzzles. As in most Rendell novels, there are few likable characters here with the exception of Vera, the long-suffering wife. In a way, each character gets what they want, but the hands of fate have ways of playing them out in unexpected ways. There is a pervailing atmosphere of doom and gloom that gets darker as the novel progresses and Rendell may get the reader to gain a little sympathy toward Stanley, which is quite an accomplishment.