Malevolence in a Coffeepot

CARNIVAL BY THE SEA (327 pp. Si grid de Lima—Scribner ($3.50).

Ever since storytelling began, the mean old stepmother has played the heavy; nowadays, stepmother has to have a batch of certifiable complexes.

In Carnival by the Sea, the heavy is Mrs. Albany, an aging invalid whose home, an abandoned coffee shop shaped like a huge coffeepot, stands on the barren dunes of the California coast. In two days' action, well padded with flashbacks, Mrs. Albany racks up a high score in pure malevolence. Among other things, she drives her stepson to alcoholism and her stepdaughter to an early death. She also...

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