Moving on from the introductions of the books, I will now look at the book endings. ‘The Speckled Band’ is lacklustre, quite frankly. The solution of the case is revealed in the ending, which means that we don’t have any kind of ending that is enthralling, or that has a climax. I think that Conan Doyle should have attempted to try and tell us the answer, but with an enthralling ending. For example, he could have explained how he solved the mystery, and then have the scene with the snake slithering through the ventilator, trying to kill Helen Stoner. This would have made the ending more gripping.
In ‘Lamb to the slaughter’, I think that the ending was much more nerve-wracking and mysterious than in ‘The Speckled Band’. This is because we have to anxiously wait for the detectives to eat the murder weapon, and therefore destroy the only evidence the police (unknowingly) have, to convict Maloney of her crime. This is enthralling, as we know why Maloney really wants Noonan’s team to eat the lamb, but they don’t, so they don’t see any problem with eating it. The ending of ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ is also funny, because it makes the detectives look incredibly stupid.
Even the narrations make them look like a bunch of idiots, as they say things like: “Their voices thick and sloppy,” when describing them eating the lamb – when really that is how we could describe the detectives, as they handled the case in a very sloppy way. The conversation the detectives had at the end is also funny, because they say things like: “Personally, I think it’s right here under our noses” (referring to the murder weapon) – with another detective hilariously replying “Probably right under our noses,” when it literally is under their noses.
Overall, I think ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ has a far better ending, as it is gripping, yet funny; whereas the ending of ‘The Speckled Band’ isn’t gripping, or funny. Moving on from looking at different sections of the books, I will now look at how each detective went about solving their cases. Holmes seems to be super-intelligent, as he could figure out what happened from the clues provided, and work out which clues were red herrings. He also keeps an open mind; often changing his theories if the clues don’t fit in with what he thinks happened.
We see him doing this by when he wonderingly said ‘I don’t know why it should be tied’. Even his assistant, Dr. Watson, admired his extraordinary talents, by using words in his narrations including ‘pleasure’, ‘admiring’, and ‘swift’ when referring to him. This shows that he is a very intelligent person, who would always eventually work out the right answer. These amazing skills that Holmes possess are far superior to those of Noonan’s, in ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’, and all of his assistants put together! Mary Maloney outsmarts the detectives on several different occasions.
For example, she offered Noonan a drink of whiskey, specifying a reason why she thought he needed one (she made up the excuse: “you must be awfully tired”) to try and throw them off the plot. However, we know that Maloney wanted to get Noonan drunk, so that they had less chance of working out that she committed the crime. We also see that Noonan, unlike Holmes, has a very ‘closed’ mind, whereby he doesn’t look at other possibilities, even if it looks like his theories are wrong. For example, he kept saying that: “It’s the old story… Get the weapon, and you’ve got the man” – which he still believed would be the case by the end of the book!
This shows that he isn’t a good detective, as he isn’t willing to alter what he thinks happened, even if evidence suggests that it is completely wrong. Moving from one extreme to another, I am now going to compare the villains of the books. We are exposed to two very different types of murderer – a loving wife who supposedly wouldn’t hurt a soul, especially as she is six months pregnant, and a man who is a traitor to his family, by murdering his own relatives so that he can get more money from her deceased wife… In ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’, we can see several points as to why we would never suspect Mary Maloney of being a murderess.
In the introduction of the book, Roald Dahl makes her look as if she is the loving housewife: ‘she would glance up at the clock… with the thought that each minute gone by made it a nearer the time when he would come home’. This shows that she was in love with Patrick, and that Roald Dahl made it look as if she was happy. When we read that she murdered him rather unexpectedly, we instantly knew that she wasn’t as happy as she was portrayed as being. However, Mary Maloney probably wouldn’t fool Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock never ruled anything out in his case.
Even though the shutter over the window had ‘no slit through which a knife could be passed to raise the shutter’, and ‘the hinges… were of solid iron, built firmly into the massive masonry’, he still only remarked on this by saying ‘my theory certainly presents some difficulties. He never actually ruled the possibility of someone or something breaking in through the window out. Supposing that Holmes didn’t rule out the possibility of Mary murdering her husband (which would be very hard to prove, given the lack of evidence), he would have probably caught her out, somehow.
On the other hand, Dr. Grimesby Roylott is portrayed as being a much tougher person. When he spoke, Watson described his words as being “snarled,” which suggests that he isn’t a good person to talk to. He also: “stepped swiftly forwards, seized a poker, and bent it into a curve with his huge brown hands,” in the course of the story, which says two things. Firstly, it describes the fact that he has the brute strength to bend a poker, which requires strength. But secondly, it describes him as having “huge brown hands,” which suggests that he generally has a large body, capable of killing anyone.
In contrast to Mary Maloney, Roylott seems much more capable of killing someone, as he is portrayed as being an evil character. Overall, I enjoyed reading how Holmes responded to events, and how quickly he deduced information from clues that he had, but I also liked the entertainment we get from ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’. I enjoyed both books, but I think that ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ has to be the more compelling, simply because we didn’t know what to expect next when reading it, and it seemed a lot easier to be gripped by it, whereas in ‘The Speckled Band’ we could correctly assume what would happen next.