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A comparison of two short stories, "Lamb to the Slaughter" by Roald Dahl and "The Speckled Band" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle which considers the ingredients of a good murder mystery and the similarities and differences between them.

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Introduction

A comparison of two short stories, "Lamb to the Slaughter" by Roald Dahl and "The Speckled Band" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle which considers the ingredients of a good murder mystery and the similarities and differences between them. There are several primary ingredients that should be present in a good murder mystery. These are a death, a motive, an alibi and a suspect. The main component is suspense, this is very important because the whole idea of a murder mystery is that the reader doesn't know an extremely important detail. For example, in "The Speckled Band" Conan Doyle chooses to make the murderer and their method the mystery. Whereas in "Lamb to the Slaughter" Dahl chooses to hold the reader in suspense as to whether Mary Maloney is going to be caught. In a stereotypical Murder mystery, the reader usually expects the murderer to be caught, usually after being outwitted by the detective and then facing a climactic showdown. In 'Lamb to the slaughter" we learn that Mary Maloney is pregnant and that she is looking forward to starting a family with her husband. ...read more.

Middle

Grimesby Roylott was suspected of the crime by the local coroner, which shows that he has a history or a tendency to commit violent or malicious acts. The reader is not told how Dr. Roylott reacted after the death of his step-daughter but judging from his character traits and the fact that he carried out the murder, one can assume that he probably didn't react with too much sadness. The murderers both attempt to hide their weapon; Roylott's is unimaginatively in a safe (the first place Holmes thinks to look; "What's in here?"). Mary Maloney hides her murder weapon in an ingenious way. The Police officers are searching for something solid, but by the time they see the meat, it has changed state and is soft. The officers then proceed to eat the lamb which disposes of the weapon for her. The detectives investigating the murder in "Lamb to the Slaughter" start making their conclusions with pre-conceived ideas of the precise details of the murder, some of which are constructed by Mary Maloney. For example 'She fell into Jack Noonan's arms, weeping hysterically.' ...read more.

Conclusion

This kind of comment leaves the reader in suspense as to whether the detectives will figure out that the murder weapon is actually in the oven cooking. This suspense is turned into humour at the end of the story with the comment "The weapon's probably right under our noses". This is said whilst the lamb is literally where they metaphorically predict, this is unusual in a murder mystery because the story ends in Humour. Conan Doyle builds up tension in "The speckled band" by using night time as a way to provoke feelings of tension and suspense. For example, when Holmes and Watson are sitting in the dark in Roylott's house Watson refers to the situation as "dreadful". I preferred "Lamb to the Slaughter" more than "The Speckled band" because I found it an enjoyable alternative to the format usually found in Murder Mysteries. The main suspense was not placed within the boundaries of who the killer was, or how they committed their crime. I found the story a well written and intelligent tale. I enjoyed the way that Dahl left the question open to the reader as to whether Mary Maloney had planned slightly in advance to murder her husband. 1 Chris Dales 10D ...read more.

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