The Tentacles by Dana Lyon. Harper and Brothers (1950), 235 pp.
Hilda and Roger Trenton, having eloped after a brief courtship, are about to face his wealthy parents. Hilda, cultured and athletic, has little money of her own. Roger, an architect, holds a lowly position at a large San Francisco firm. They approach the Monterey estate with special trepidation because Hilda has yet to meet his parents. Roger’s domineering mother, Teresa, greets her new daughter-in-law with condescension and disapproval. His laid-back father, Gerald, however, seems pleasant and accepting. Hilda soon discovers that she’ll be spending an unexpectedly large amount of time with her in-laws and that their attitudes toward her are more complicated than she first thought.
The Tentacles deserves an honored spot in the in-laws-from-hell sub-genre of stories about troubled marriages. Poor Hilda! She just wants to keep house in the suburbs and watch her hubby’s career flourish. That prospect continues to dim as the tale proceeds. Lyon adds to a tense situation by an opening flash-forward in which Hilda can’t decide whether to rescue a swimmer screaming for help or let him drown as an act of justice. The author might have introduced some ambiguity if her protagonist’s motives had been less pure. That sort of change would have given readers more to mull over but weakened their identification with Hilda. As it is, women who enjoy suspense novels may like this one quite a bit. The Ace paperback edition, incidentally, also contains a sequel, Spin the Web Tight.