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. 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 the door shut. The windows are also very small and “too narrow for anyone to pass through. ” This shows us that it is impossible for anyone to enter Julia’s room at night. We are told by Helen, that there are some gypsies that are staying in the grounds behind the house. We expect the gypsies to have something to do with the murder.
However, Sherlock Holmes immediately discards this theory after inspecting the windows. This makes the gypsies the ‘red herrings’ in this story. The reason the girls kept their doors locked at night was because Dr. Roylott was a wild animal’s enthusiast and kept a cheetah and baboon in the grounds. On the night of the murder, Helen says that she has an uneasy feeling, “A vague feeling of impending misfortune impressed me. ” She also tells us that the weather is very bad outside. This makes the whole atmosphere of the story even tenser, which in turn makes it even more of a classic murder mystery, where everything is dark and bleak.
Helen heard “the wild scream of a terrified woman” amidst all the noise of the rain and thunder outside. As Helen ran to her sister’s bedroom, she hears the same “low whistle” Julia was talking about earlier that night. She also heard a metallic clanging sound. As Helen approached her sister’s room, the door was open. Julia appeared at the opening, “her face blanched with terror, her hands groping for help. ” Julia is convulsing all the while, and Helen explains that it was not easy to understand what she was saying. Julia managed to gasp one final piece of vital information before she perished, “Oh, my God Helen! It was the band!
The speckled band! ” We can see that The Speckled Band is a more ‘mature’ story. The crime is much more dramatic. The main difference between the stories at the moment is that one has been planned carefully and other is just something that happens at the last minute. The crime in Lamb to the Slaughter is quite humorous, whereas the crime in The Speckled Band is very serious. We expect killers, murderers and rapists to be men. It is just something we have come to believe. Whether we are watching television, reading a book or looking at a ‘wanted’ sign in a shop window, out first conclusion is that the ‘bad guy’ is actually going to be a guy.
What do we expect a villain to be doing in his or her spare time? Washing the dishes? Cooking the dinner? Dusting the furniture? Having a baby? Well these are just some of the routine jobs that the killer in Lamb to the Slaughter does. Surprisingly, this kind, gentle and loving woman, isn’t all what she is made out to be. Although she doesn’t mind being classed as a “domestic creature”, Mary shows a quality most other 1950’s housewives don’t. She shows that she really does have a brain and that she can use it. She shows her quick-wittedness and that she can work way out of problems herself.
It comes as a shock to us when we find out that the killer in Lamb to the Slaughter is a woman. But not only is she just a woman, but she is an expecting mother. We would never even dream that she would be the murderer by the way Roald Dahl describes her at the start of the story. Mary is just one of those average 1950’s housewives that stay at home all day, cleaning up and getting the dinner ready. What makes it even harder for us to believe that she would kill Patrick is that she loves him so much. Dahl says that she loved to sunbathe in the “warm, male glow that came out of him. ” Mary knows every little thing about this man.
Exactly what time he is going to be home, exactly what drink he is going to want and even how he wants it. There is a point when Patrick has finished his drink and about to get another, when Mary suddenly shoots up, “I’ll get it! ” she cries, jumping up. This shows just how much she cares for him. She knows he is going to be tired, so she does every little thing for him. We can see that Mary is anything but the stereotypical murderer. She just doesn’t have the characteristics.
We start to wonder, ‘was what Patrick said so unimaginably terrible, that it provoked Mary to kill the man she undyingly loved? Another thing we have to take into account is that she is not just an average housewife; she is a very clever housewife. After killing Patrick, lots of thoughts start crossing her mind. She thinks that she will face the death penalty. She knows she must save her child, so devises a plan to get out of the murder. She “touches up her lips and face” and goes to the grocers. When she speaks to Sam, the man who owns the shop, she acts very normal. “I want some potatoes please, Sam. Yes, and I think a can of peas. ” She had already rehearsed these lines beforehand at home.
What Mary is doing here, is creating an alibi. The villain in The Speckled Band is the complete opposite of Mary Maloney. Unlike in Lamb to the Slaughter, it isn’t much of a shock to us when we find out that Dr. Roylott is the murderer. Dr. Roylott is described as being quite a “fierce” looking man. It is said that he is a “huge man. ” He sounds like a killer to us already. “A large face, seared with a thousand wrinkles… and marked with every evil passion. ” This line makes it even easier for us to picture Dr. Roylott as the killer. Dr. Roylott also has history of violence.
Helen says that, “he beat his native butler to death, and narrowly escaped a capital sentence. ” Dr. Roylott is not just brawn, he also has a brain, as his title suggests. He is extremely clever. You have to clever in order to organize a crime like this one. The crime in The Speckled Band would require a man of genius to carry it out. It is in total contrast to the crime in Lamb to the Slaughter where Patrick is killed with a single blow to the head. Another reason why we come to accept Dr. Roylott as the murderer is because he is the girls’ step-father, meaning he is not their biological father and may not have much love for them.
In Lamb to the Slaughter though, Mary soaks Patrick in her love. We feel no sympathy for Dr. Roylott because he only wants to kill the two girls for their money. Helen explains, “Each daughter can claim an income of i?? 250, in case of marriage… even one of them would cripple him to a serious extent. ” In Lamb to the Slaughter, Mary kills Patrick because of deeper reasons. We feel sympathetic towards her because we come to the conclusion that Patrick is leaving her. As we can clearly see now, Dr. Roylott is a stereotypical killer. He has all the characteristics of a ruthless villain.
Stereotypically, the victim is the weak, fragile, little lady and the villain is the big, demented, monster of a man. Lamb to the Slaughter though, as we have come to realize, doesn’t quite follow the pattern most other stories in this genre do. This is exactly the case when we come to the victim in Lamb to the Slaughter. Patrick Maloney is a “senior policeman,” and supposedly quite a big, strong man. Certainly strong enough to defend himself against a weak, little lady like his wife. He is not the typical murder victim. He doesn’t fit the description. We would expect the scenario to be the other way round.
Where Patrick would have a motive for killing Mary. We feel no sympathy towards Patrick when he dies. I think we area actually meant to be happy when he is killed. We are not supposed to like him. This is because he has apparently told Mary that he is leaving her, which to us is for reasons unknown. In fact, I think Patrick deserved what he got. I don’t think Mary, who cherished every moment with him, would kill Patrick for a minor thing. What Patrick said, must have been pretty serious. Patrick did not seem to treat Mary with the same love and respect that she showed him from the start.
Every time Patrick said something to Mary, it consisted mainly of one word sentences. For example, when Mary lovingly asks Patrick if he would like supper, Patrick just plainly says, “No. ” He doesn’t say ‘It’s okay love,’ or, ‘No thank you dear. ‘ Because of all these things, we get the feeling that Patrick ‘had it coming. ‘ We never at any point feel sorry for him. In complete comparison to Patrick, Helen from The Speckled Band, is the typical victim. Helen is one of those women that require a man to do everything for them. When we first read about her, we are told that she is, “in a pitiable state of agitation.
She is quite scared, even in the presence of the Great Sherlock Holmes. Even though Helen does not die in the story, we still feel greatly sympathetic towards her. This is because, not only has she lost her twin sister, but also because she does not have a reason to be killed. She hasn’t done anything to hurt Dr. Roylott. He only wants to kill Helen because of the money she will inherit when she marries. As I have already mentioned, Helen is weak and innocent, she does not deserve to die. This is completely different to Lamb to the Slaughter, where Patrick is the wrong-doer and has it coming.
Helen is the stereotypical murder victim mainly due to the fact that she is weak and fragile. Sherlock Holmes notices “five livid spots, the marks of four fingers and a thumb,” printed upon Helen’s wrist. “You have been cruelly used,” says Holmes. This makes is even easier for us to see why Helen is a typical victim. We now know that she has been abused in the past. We can see that both stories are opposite in two places. In Lamb to the Slaughter, the killer is a woman and the victim is a man. In The Speckled Band, the killer is a man, and the victim is a woman.
Detectives are given their jobs because they are particularly skilled in their field of work. They usually show exceptional talent which is of a higher standard than that of a regular policeman. However, in Lamb to the Slaughter, the paragraph above does not relate the slightest. Jack Noonan and O’Malley are the detectives that arrive to solve the crime. Although they are showing signs of being professionals, for example they take photographs and check for fingerprints, this soon changes as they begin to make gross errors. The first thing they do wrong is assume that the killer is a man. It’s the old story.
Get the weapon and you’ve got the man. ” This tells us that they are already confident that the killer is a man. Mary is quite safe now, due to the fact that she is no longer a suspect. The second thing that jack does wrong is quite a serious mistake. Jack drinks alcohol while he is on the job. What makes this situation humorous is that he actually knows himself that he is not allowed. “I’m not strictly allowed, but I might just take a drop to keep me going. ” The professionalism we saw earlier, was thrown out of the window the second the whiskey ‘whisked’ down Jack’s throat!
But the amazing thing is that the rest of Jack Noonan’s team also join him in having a little “nip. ” The humorous part of the story is displayed at the end. This is when Mary shows truly how intelligent she really is. After she killed Patrick with the lamb, she put the leg in the oven and began to cook it. Intending to clear her name completely, Marks asks the policemen if they would stay to eat. The ironic thing is that the detectives eat what they are looking for! This shows just how stupid these men are. Their chances of solving the crime are now slim to none.
The detectives converse about the crime while they are eating: “Whoever done it, they’re not going to be carrying a thing like that around with them longer than they need. ” “Personally, I think it’s right here on the premises. ” “Probably right under our very noses. ” At this point, Mary is probably very smug indeed. She now knows that she is out of the woods and free of suspicion. She has the right to be happy, “And in the other room, Mary Maloney began to giggle. ” I enjoyed this ending but it is different from the usual stories where the good people are victorious and the bad person is caught.
Sherlock Holmes on the other hand, is no ordinary detective. He is a super detective. One that always solves the crime. Holmes is a ‘super sleuth’ and never takes up any ordinary cases. He always goes for something that would prove to be challenging. “He refused to associate himself with any investigation that did not tend towards the unusual. ” When reading a Sherlock Holmes based story, written by Arthur Conan Doyle, you don’t expect anything besides Detective Holmes emerging victorious. Even in a time when forensic sciences were not available, the clever deductions and observations, always got Sherlock his man.
During the times of Sherlock Holmes, the ignorance of the Victorian society resented any change in lifestyle. They found it hard to cope with developments and found stability in their solid living styles. If anything went wrong in their lives, Sherlock Holmes was their defender. Sherlock Holmes was to the Victorians, as Superman is to the people of Metropolis. The unalterable fact that comforted the Victorians so much was that Sherlock Holmes would never be beaten. He held all the qualities that were envied by people from the Victorian age.
He was extremely boastful and enjoyed showing it to others. He was amusingly witty and used this quality to destroy his enemies. He wasn’t afraid of digging deep into the darkness of London’s underground darkness; prostitution and opium dens. It was extremely satisfying for the people of London to know that the warmth of Holmes’ shadow was always towering over them. Holmes was the superhero of that era; always dependable in a sticky, unforgiving situation. When Holmes first meets Helen, he doesn’t even have to ask about her journey. The information and the way he finds out is very surprising.
From just looking at the ticket in her hand, and the state of her clothes, he depicts her whole journey. It is like he mentally scans Helen and compiles a report on her. “You had a good drive in a dog-cart, along heavy roads. ” Holmes realizes this just by analyzing the splashes of mud on Helen’s clothes. Helen is very startled when she hears this. She too cannot believe it. It shows that Holmes is a very good detective. He is good at observing things and finding out obscure and inconspicuous details. Mr. Holmes knows himself that he is a very good detective. He is not at all modest and at some points even boastful.
He knows that he is very clever and doesn’t fray from showing it. He basically tells us that he had solved the crime before even setting foot in Roylott’s room. “I had come to those conclusions before ever I had entered his room. ” We can see just how different the two detectives are in this story. They are complete opposites. One solves the crime, the other eats the main lead! The main difference between these two short stories is that one of them has the crime solved, and the other doesn’t. Throughout reading both stories, you continually notice the traditional and not so traditional aspects of both.
Both stories are completely opposite, so it is easy to spot their differences. Not one element in both stories is the same. The crime in one is serious; the crime in the other is almost a joke. The villain in one is a six months pregnant woman and the villain in the other is an intelligent, fierce doctor. The stories end in different ways, but both have satisfactory endings nonetheless. In Lamb to the Slaughter, Mary gets away with murder, which is what we want. In The Speckled Band, Dr. Roylott is killed, which is also what we want. The stories are both different in the way that they are told.
In Lamb to the Slaughter, we know exactly what has happened, and the detective doesn’t. In The Specked Band we are kept in suspense, because we know just as much as the detective. In my opinion, Lamb to the Slaughter was a more enjoyable story. It provides a welcome twist to the genre. It contains humour, which lightens the atmosphere. I think that more authors should follow in Roald Dahl’s example and write murder mysteries that don’t always follow the rules. It would be nice if every book made you smile as you closed it, just as this one did.