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What are the main characteristics of the traditional murder mystery story? To what extent do 'The Speckled Band' by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and 'Lamb to the Slaughter' by Roald Dahl share these characteristics? Which do you prefer and why?

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What are the main characteristics of the traditional murder mystery story? To what extent do 'The Speckled Band' by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and 'Lamb to the Slaughter' by Roald Dahl share these characteristics? Which do you prefer and why? Murder mysteries have always been a popular literary genre. In the early tradition, the 'hero' in the story is usually portrayed as the cool, calm detective who always solves the case. In most traditional murder mysteries, the motive for the murder is usually to do with an inheritance of a will, and the murderer is usually a man. The detective is also a well-known, swerve, intelligent character who is keenly observant, "No, but I observe the second half of a return ticket in the palm of your left glove." Some other points that we may expect to find from a traditional murder mystery are that the side-kick, who is not as bright as the detective, acts as a sounding board so that the plot can be clarified for the audience at strategic points. In 'The Speckled Band', the character that portrays this role is Dr. Watson; he always explains the points that Holmes has discovered. In traditional murder mysteries the detective was responsible for creating and maintaining the tension by always being several steps ahead in the detection. However in modern murder mysteries such as 'Lamb to the Slaughter', the characteristics are very unlike the traditional stories. The murderer is not always a man as in Dahl's story he choose to use an innocent housewife who no-one would suspect to be the villain. The detectives also differ from the ones from traditional stories as they make many more mistakes while trying to solve the case. The characters also are very different; they are dimmer in the fact that they themselves eat the murder weapon. This shows that they are not as observant as characters such as Holmes. ...read more.


His motive for trying to kill Miss Stoner was over money. His deceased wife left money for her daughters, but if they die he would receive the money. I do not feel any sympathy for Doctor Roylott because he's a sick and twisted man. He is also very selfish, but a very dangerous man. He should have got capital punishment when he murdered his butler in India. In traditional murder mystery genres there is a sense of mystery created by the setting and the characters themselves. In 'Lamb to the Slaughter', the scene of the crime is very calm and a relaxed atmosphere "The room was warm and clean, the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight - hers and the one by the empty chair opposite. On the sideboard behind her, two tall glasses, soda water, whisky. Fresh ice cubes in the Thermos Bucket." Although there is a calm and relaxed atmosphere, it is a little too calm, which creates tension. In this story it fit a traditional scene, which we expect. However in 'The Speckled Band' Doyle used a very traditional way of describing the scene of the crime. It was set in an old house, described as "The building was of grey, lichen - -blotched stone, with a high central portion and two curving wings, like the claws of a crab, thrown out on each side. In one of these wings the windows were broken and blocked with wooden boards, while the roof was partly caved in, a picture of ruin." This creates a spooky and scary atmosphere. The atmosphere makes me feel very cautious because it's a typical description of a haunted house where anything could suddenly happen. You could relate this atmosphere to a typical atmosphere of a murder mystery. To add even more atmosphere of fear and horror were both a baboon and cheetah in the house. In 'Lamb to the Slaughter' the detective did not suspect Mary Maloney, put pressure on her, they didn't make her leave the room, suspect a woman and didn't solve the crime. ...read more.


Even though the language used in 'Lamb to the slaughter', I found it more enjoyable to read. Both stories have unconventional endings, which I liked and made both stories more interesting. I have always liked to read murder mysteries because they are interesting and they make you think about what will happen, and you have to work things out using clues, which you have been given. You can tell that 'The Speckled Band' is set around a traditional murder mystery because of the following reasons it involves a calm, professional detective who is in control from the beginning, "you must not fear", he said soothingly. We know nothing of the victim as they are dead from the beginning, "She was but thirty at the time of her death...she died just two years ago". We do not find out what happened until the very end to maintain suspense and audience interest, the characters involved are wealthy, powerful and well known to the area "Well known Surrey family of the Roylotts of Stoke Moran." The murderer is a man, and the murder was committed in order to gain an inheritance. The murderer was not a likeable character at the start as he was described as having "uncontrollable anger". Gypsies were suspected to be the murderer at the beginning of the story due to secretive behaviour, however it turns out they are not connected to the murder. Finally the detective always gets his man and the baddie usually dies. However in 'Lamb to the Slaughter' the characteristics are very different from a traditional murder mystery. This is because firstly, the murderer is not a man. The murderer is the most unlikely character in the story, the quite, caring housewife. The detectives are also not very observant, as they hunt for the murder weapon the immediately expect it to be a heavy metal like object. It is completely different to a traditional murder story in every way. By Stephanie Baker Words = 2003 3-Mar-03 ...read more.

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