Lamb to the Slaughter and The Speckled Band are both examples of the murder mystery genre. Explore the similarities and differences in these two examples of the genre.

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Lamb to the Slaughter and The Speckled Band

are both examples of the murder mystery genre.

Explore the similarities and differences in these

two examples of the genre.


The murder mystery genre always includes four main ingredients. These are the crime, the villain, the victim and of course, the detective. Usually, in classic examples of this genre, the detective finds out what has happened and solves the crime. However, the above mentioned ‘ingredients’ can be mixed together to create different recipes for murder mysteries.

        Whereas in most stories in this genre the villain is caught or killed, in a small minority, the villain gets away with the crime, making the detective look unprofessional.  

        I have read two stories which cover both of the endings in this genre. These are Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl and The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle. I am going to explain in detail how these two short stories are both similar and different.

        As I mentioned before, every story that has a murder mystery theme, involves a crime. In Lamb to the Slaughter, the murder is totally unplanned. It happens on the spur of the moment.

        Mary Maloney, the so-called ‘villain’, kills her husband using a frozen leg of lamb. As I found out whilst reading this story, this is an unusual kind of weapon, but effective nevertheless.

        Mary Maloney is a typical housewife from the time of when this story was written, circa 1950. She works at home all day, doesn’t go out much and hasn’t even an ounce of a social life. She’s also married to a senior policeman, Mr. Patrick Maloney.

        On the night of the murder, Patrick has just come home from work. Mary is just about to make dinner. She is being very nice to Patrick as usual. We find out that Mary loves Patrick to bits and cherishes every moment she spends with him. She adores every little thing about this man, “She loved him for the way he sat loosely in a chair…She loved the intent, far look in his eyes.”

        After the couple have their usual drink, Patrick explains something to Mary. As the readers, we don’t get an insight to what is being said, but we do get a picture of what it is about. “Of course I’ll give you money and see you’re looked after,” Patrick says. We come to the conclusion that whatever Patrick has said, really shocked and bewildered Mary. She shows this not by having a temper tantrum and yelling at Patrick, but by whispering, “I’ll get the supper,” and walking out of the room. To us, it feels as though Patrick is telling her that he is leaving home. This is because we are told that she was, “watching him with a kind of dazed horror as he went further and further away with each word.”

        In my opinion, it is not a very good idea to leave your wife especially when she is pregnant with your baby. Mary walks down to the cellar to fetch the meat. She pulls a frozen leg of lamb out of the freezer and carries it back upstairs. As she enters the room, her husband hears her and says, “For God’s sake. Don’t make supper for me. I’m going out.”

        At this point, I think the last, tiny piece of string holding Mary’s brain together just snapped. She walks up behind Patrick, who is standing facing the window, and whacks him on the head with the leg of lamb.

        In The Speckled Band, the crime is carefully planned and breathtakingly complicated. It is also safe to say that the victim is not killed using a dead, frozen animal limb! The person who dies in this story has fallen victim to a crime that been organized over a lengthy period of time.


Dr. Roylott, the villain and man we are supposed to loathe by the end of this story, wants to kill both of his two step-daughters.

        The murder takes place in the bedroom of one of the daughters, Julia’s. The bedrooms are placed like this, Dr. Roylott’s is first in the corridor, then Julia’s in the middle and then Helen, the other daughters, is last in line. All three rooms are built facing the garden.

        As I have already explained, the crime is very complex. Dr. Roylott has rigged Julia’s room with a fake air-vent system which is connected to his own room via the wall. On Julia’s side, the opening of the vent had a dummy “bell-rope” hanging from it.  

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        At night, according to Helen, Julia heard, “a low clear whistle.” Every night, Dr. Roylott would send a snake, trained using a whip-cord, a bowl of milk and a whistle, through the ventilation system into Julia’s room. He did this in hope of the snake biting Julia, as her bed was bolted to the floor under the vent.

        Helen explains that on the night of Julia’s death, Julia had asked her sister, “Have you ever heard anyone whistle in the dead of the night?” After a brief conversation between the two sisters, Julia returns to her room and locks ...

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