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For me, a good murder mystery needs to contain a mixture of aspects.
Like in mid-summer murders and Morse it needs to include the following
things, a good setting, there needs to be a good setting so that it
sets up the whole of the story, it needs to be somewhere quiet and
The characters need to be strong characters that all relate to each
other, there also needs to be a twist in the characters to add depth
an mystery, perhaps the last clue to the murderer. The murderer has to
be someone unexpected, someone who perhaps wasn't the strongest
character. The victim has to be someone who has mystery but perhaps
gave the killer reason to, so you might feel that they deserved it but
you might have sympathy for, it also needs to be someone you least
expect to be killed, perhaps the stronger character. And the detective
has to be someone who everyone can sort of relate to, who has a slight
mystery behind him or her so that even when you think you know them
there is a skeleton in their closet.
The murder weapon has to be something of power and something that
represents some element in the play. It also has to be something
unexpected like an exotic animal or as in lamb to the slaughter, a leg
Also the plot has to be thick and unexpected, with plenty of twists
and red herrings. It also needs to make the reader feel included in
the story so you feel as if you were there.
Finally the ending of the story has to be meaningful and it needs to
draw a conclusion. The killer has to be found, the reasons to be
explained and the murder it self be told and what happened prior to
the event. This finishes off what happened and lets us draw our own
conclusions, although for a good murder mystery something's need to be
left a mystery.
I am going to compare the different areas in each story. I shall be
comparing the following
The settings for Lamb To The Slaughter and The Speckled Band a very
different. The setting for the speckled band is in Victorian England,
in the earlier 1900's. it is set in a country town, in a big mansion.
A wealthy family lives in it. It is torn apart by deceit, greed and
the death of the lady of the household. The back ground to the story
goes a little something like this. The lady of the Stoke morans first
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Grimsby then married her. She then died in a tragic accident. She left
to her second husband her money and in the event of her daughters
marriage they were to receive as cut. When one of the daughters is to
marry a navy officer, she was killed brutally and it is up to Holmes
to figure out the case. It is a very traditional "whodunit case"
In the early 1900's things were different a lot of very important
social and historical event had happened. First of all women had not
gained their rights yet as the suffragette movement had not begun yet.
Also the police had not come properly into action, well at least they
were not favoured by the public. They were seen as not protecting the
public. Also in this time period, capital punishment had not been
abolished so people were still very much afraid of what could happen
if they committed a crime.
Lamb to the slaughter is set in the 1950's.In a families household.
The book features a couple who are seemingly happy on the outside, the
husband is a police officer and the wife a house keeper. The couple
are expecting a baby when the husband gives the wife some news that
she really cant handle. This sends the wife in to a spinâ€¦killing her
husband in a most unexpected way.
This book was written in the 1950's there for things were different,
women had rights, the wars had finished and life would have been
different then. The police force would have been more established and
I think because of different things that were going on in the time
periods it affected the way the stories were written. For example the
classes would have been significantly different in the Victorian times
so that is why it is perhaps set in a large wealthy household, where
as in the lamb to the slaughter it is set in more up to date times
classes were less prominent so it was set in a ordinary little family
house. I think this also effects the killers, at this point in time
women were allowed to do more things, like get a job and be more
independent so really this shows the strength that women had at this
I like the way that in the Speckled band, the time period is really
brought out in the writing. It really lets you in on how life is
written by how he describes the scenery and how he describes the way
In the lamb to the slaughter I like how it shows the characters. I
like how it shows how the times have changed since The speckled band.
I like how Dahl shows the ordinary life of the couple which is
In conclusion to the settings they are very different because of the
time periods. Where as the speckled band is set in the times where a
lot of things had not happened and this makes a big contrast.
Because of the different time periods there are a lot of differences
in the way the characters are portrayed, so for this I am going to
look individually at the Murderers, Victims and the detectives.
The murderer in the Speckled band is Dr Roylott Grimsby. The Dr kills
his first step daughter when she goes to marry a navy officer. If she
was to marry the officer he would have had to give her a substantial
amount of money. The doctor did not want to give her this money so he
resorted to murdering her.
Dr Roylott, had been travelling a lot so he had a lot of exotic
animals. And one of his new pets is a Speckled snake, which he
Dr Roylott might be seen as Violent and manipulative but who is also
very clever and devious. We can see his eviller and more sinister side
in the little fragment of the story, where Holmes and Watson meet up
with the Doctor and he had this to say:
collective. She is a fairly timid woman who tries to do her best. We
see this quality in her at the very beginning. Unlike the Doctor in
the speckled band i don't think she actually planned the murder, also
unlike Dr Roylott she is not a angry person. Although i think she has
a different side like the doctor had. Examples of her good natured
side are the following:
"darling would you like me to get you some cheese? I haven't made any
supper because its Thursday?"
she does this through out the beginning, she offers to do a lot of
things for her husband, but they are all turned down. The other side
to Mary is that she is quite clever and quite witty in the sense she
manipulates the police into doing what she wanted. We see this side of
her at the end, and example would be:
" Please eat it. Personally i couldn't touch a thing, certainly not
what's been in the house when he was here. But its alright for you.
It'd be a favour to me if you'd eat it up!"
She says that quite innocently but then later on at the very end when
the police officers have finished an are discussing the case she has
to laugh as they have just eaten the evidence and murder weapon.
The murder victims in the two stories are very different too. In The
speckled band the victim is Dr Roylotts first step daughter, we don't
actually see much of her but from what her sister Helen tells Holmes
and Watson, Julia died two years before the story was set, just before
she was due to get married. You would kind of expect a woman to get
killed because at that point in time it was all the kind of films like
damsels in distress and how women were weaker.
In the Lamb to the slaughter we don't expect Mr Maloney to die. We
don't expect it because he is the stronger of the two characters and
it isn't often that men characters die, they are normally the killers.
The detectives are also a lot different. Sherlock Holmes is a
character who is very sophisticated and professional. Who also is very
intelligent and takes his job very seriously. We expect in every story
that Holmes figures out the story and in most of them he does.
Where as in lamb to the slaughter the character Sergeant Noonan is
fairly lazy and doesn't play by the rules. He takes the drink off Mary
and he eats the food. Although we see him doing this, he does get the
work done, i think if we were to see the story progress he might of
worked it out.
In conclusion to the characters they are all very different it could
be to do with the time frames but in some cases they are very similar.
I think because the speckled band is older its more traditional and
people liked to see happy endings in those days and often changed
stories to make them happier, so this might of influenced Conan Doyle
to write happy endings making Sherlock always figure them out.
The two endings are very different as well. As i said earlier, the
Victorians liked happy endings and often changed them, so this
influence could of made the author to write the happy ending. In the
speckled band Sherlock Holmes figures out what happened, but
unfortunately is too late to arrest Dr Roylott. I think people like to
see that Holmes finally gets it and stops the killings.
In lamb to the slaughter, we are left to believe that Mary Maloney
gets away with it. The police make no connection with her and eat the
evidence. I think although it isn't necessarily the best ending people
like to see this because they feel sympathetic to Mary.