Wide Reading Comparing 'Lamb to the Slaughter' to 'The Speckled Band'

Essay by SpacechimpHigh School, 10th gradeA, March 2004

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'Lamb to the Slaughter' and 'The Speckled Band' are both murder mysteries. Like most murder mysteries each of the stories have a murderer, a victim and characters acting in a suspicious or unusual way.

'Lamb to the Slaughter' is a 20th century story about a woman called Mary who kills her husband, Patrick Maloney, using a leg of lamb. This seems quite surprising at first as she seems quite loving and devoted to him- 'she loved to luxuriate in the presence of this man.' However a lot of Mary Maloney's behaviour in the first scene does seem quite worrying and peculiar. It seems that she is almost obsessed with her husband and this is shown by the way she is constantly trying to please him. Although the murder is a crime of passion Mrs Maloney manages to deal with it quite well. She is very calculating when realising quite what she has done and providing herself with a convincing alibi.

When the detectives arrive to investigate the murder they seem to be taking it very seriously, however they don't really seem to consider Mrs Maloney as a real suspect. There is one point in the story where one of the detectives says

'...acted quite normal...very cheerful...impossible that she...' but this is an idea which is soon discarded. After a while the attitude of the detectives becomes more relaxed and not so professional. Mrs Maloney takes advantage of this by asking the detectives to stay for dinner. She then goes on to feed them the leg of lamb thus destroying the evidence. There is a moment of irony towards the end because when talking about the murder weapon one of the detectives says

'Probably right under our very nose' just as they are eating the leg...