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'As a murder mystery story, Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle's 'The Speckled Band' is far more effective than Roald Dahl's 'Lamb to the Slaughter'. Do you agree?

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Introduction

18th January 2002 Anthony Seymour 'As a murder mystery story, Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle's 'The Speckled Band' is far more effective than Roald Dahl's 'Lamb to the Slaughter'. Do you agree? The beginning of 'Lamb to the Slaughter' displays a warm atmosphere, with Mrs. Maloney knitting while relaxing and waiting for the home coming of her beloved husband. She then sets about her familiar routine of setting out a bottle of whiskey and a glass to welcome him home. She then happily awaits his return and seems to be content. It would appear the opening to 'Lamb to the Slaughter' leads the reader to believe she lives in a settled household, with no indication that Mrs. Maloney could later be capable of becoming so incensed that she should take such a drastic action as to murder her husband. 'Lamb to the Slaughter' has a more appealing beginning than 'The Speckled Band', as the reader is led to believe that the Maloney family live in a happy environment. Later the reader is shocked by the unexpected murder, to think a stable lady is driven to such violence. The 'Lamb to the Slaughter' is made effective as a murder story because it combines the element of surprise with a completely unsuspected murder. However this story is ineffective as a 'mystery' to the reader because it lacks the general layout of a typical murder mystery in as much as Roald Dahl describes the actions of the murderer so the reader already knows who committed the crime, opposed to 'The Speckled Band' which follows the detective around. The opening of 'The Speckled Band' begins with Sherlock Holmes being alerted by an unexpected early caller. ...read more.

Middle

because of this 'Lamb to the Slaughter' would not be considered by a reader as a brilliant murder mystery more of just a murder story because it does not actually involve any mystery about finding the murderer because the reader already knows who it is. The role of Jack Noonan in 'Lamb to the Slaughter' was to investigate the murder of a man in his own home. He had been a fellow detective and knew the victim's wife quite well. The fact that she was a gentle, tranquil and petit woman, who was expecting a baby, clouded their judgement. Her 'kind' behaviour towards them by offering them a drink and then later a meal was enough to prevent them from detecting her guilt. In fact not only was the evidence lying right under their nose but also they ate it. This twist in the tail is quite strange because until then even though Mary had murdered her own husband, the reader maybe understood why she was so incensed, however to make the policemen eat the murder weapon may have seemed a bit out of character. Jack Noonan featured in 'Lamb to the Slaughter' very briefly and for that reason he is quite hard to compare to Holmes, however Jack Noonan did not investigate the murder deep enough and showed no signs of thorough investigation. The detection methods used in the story were not the dominant feature and the murder was the major aspect. The murder was cleverly staged by having a harmless pregnant housewife with child as the murderer, however the story was not focused around a detective and therefore the detection sections are not very effective on the reader as a murder mystery because the reader is expecting a murder mystery to have some really tense detection work taking place as in 'The Speckled Band'. ...read more.

Conclusion

I actually preferred 'The Speckled Band' style of writing. Even though phrases were harder to understand, once understood, they contributed greatly to the story. 'The Speckled Band' was far more compelling, for the crime was obviously well planned and was quite unpredictable. The 'Lamb to the Slaughter' was not actually much of a mystery because the reader was aware of the killer due to the story being mainly about the murderer and not the detective. I think 'Lamb to the Slaughter' fails as a murder mystery because it lacks actual 'mystery' for the reader even though the detectives never solved the case. From the point when the murder took place - which is where the tension started to build - there is no detection work for the reader to do and therefore the reader can then only become curious about whether Mrs. Maloney will succeed. 'The Speckled Band' succeeds as an effective murder mystery because for one it involves Holmes, so a reader familiar with him already knows that it will be a excellent mystery. Also the story actually leads the reader to keep following because it gains tension as each little piece of the mystery unfolds. Overall I enjoyed and found 'The Speckled Band' more appealing due to its complex structure and excellent detective content, which was lacking in 'Lamb to the Slaughter'. I do agree with the statement that Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle's 'The Speckled Band' is more effective as a murder mystery than Roald Dahl's 'Lamb to the Slaughter' because it has a more interesting plot and has a wider range of interesting characters to liven up the story. Also 'The Speckled Band' was an actual mystery for the reader to work out, whereas the only mystery in 'Lamb to the Slaughter' was whether Mrs. Maloney would succeed or not. ...read more.

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