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Both "The Speckled Band" and "Lamb to the Slaughter" have ingredients for a detective story, i.e. they both have a murderer who is cold and calculating, and just that little bit mad.

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Key Stage 4 Wide Reading Coursework Mary Maloney and Dr. Grimesby Roylott are both murderers. Examine their similarities and differences as portrayed by the authors I have been reading 'The Speckled Band' by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle and 'Lamb to the Slaughter' by Roald Dahl. Written in 1892 and 1954 respectively. Both "The Speckled Band" and "Lamb to the Slaughter" have ingredients for a detective story, i.e. they both have a murderer who is cold and calculating, and just that little bit mad. On the other hand, they are presented to us very differently, making one story very typical of its genre, and making the other very untypical of the murder mystery genre. The Speckled Band tells the story of Sherlock Holmes investigating into a case, where a girl has died under suspicious circumstances and the witness is suspected to follow the same fate. The story, though centred on Holmes, is told as seen through the eyes of his companion, Dr Watson. Unlike Dahl's story this is a classic 'whodunit', with plenty of suspense. Lamb to the Slaughter follows a woman who learns her husband is leaving her and proceeds to kill him. A police investigation follows but she is found innocent. What separates this murder mystery from others is the character it focuses on, whereas many stories concentrate on the detective or sometimes the victim, this story concentrates on the character of the murderer. ...read more.


For this reason Dahl instead used a character that was more unexpected to his audience. The detectives in both stories are portrayed differently in their attitude towards the murderers. In The Speckled Band Holmes is presented as an observant, intelligent and committed detective, which is the typical investigators role in a murder mystery. He and Watson can also be seen as mischievous at times. Evidence of this can be seen on page 165, with the line "...Holmes the Scotland Yard Jack-in-office," Holmes chuckled heartily, "Your conversation is most entertaining..." In The Speckled Band Holmes' detective skills are outstanding. He is the classic detective. He has a clear and very sharp ability to deduce even the most complex mysteries, a gift which Dr Watson admires greatly. He says 'I had no keener pleasure than in following Holmes in his professional investigations, and admiring...(the way in which)...he unravelled the problems which were submitted to him.' By contrast the detectives involved with Mary Maloney in Lamb to the Slaughter are very gentle. They view her as helpless and so they provide all the support they can. This leads to them overall being portrayed as foolish. This is because they are straight away taken in by Mary Maloney's act, and as such are blinded from the truth. The result is that the case is never solved. The detectives are as unobservant as Holmes is observant, as unintelligent as Holmes is intelligent, and as uncommitted as Holmes is committed. ...read more.


Roylott has also killed before, whereas this is a first for Mary. Another big difference is that Mary doesn't get caught, Roylott does. Overall I didn't like the character of Grimesby Roylott. This is not because he is an unpleasant character; I wouldn't base my views on the way he is portrayed. The reason for my view is the fact that his character has been done so many times before that it fails to make any lasting impression. As soon as he is introduced into the story most people recognise that he is the murderer by the way he complies with a tried and tested stereotype. So it then becomes a case of wanting to know how it is done rather than who does it. However I do like the character of Mary Maloney for the opposite of this. To begin with the way she is introduced into the story raises no suspicions, she seems to be a normal, pleasant character. But this changes with the sudden change in events and your whole perception is thrown into confusion. The aspect I particularly like about her is the way she holds the stage. She is always the focus of the story but I never got bored of her, the turn in events kept me trying to understand her throughout. She fits into no stereotype, and that's what I like. I can't stand seeing the same 'text book' characters recycled again and again, I enjoy originality and the character of Mary Maloney is perfect example of it. ...read more.

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