Lamb to the Slaughter: A Short Story, by Roald Dahl

Eight stars

In a short story that was at first rejected by his publishers, Roald Dahl mixes dark humour with some irony to create a masterful tale. Mary Maloney is a dutiful wife, always happy to see her husband, Patrick, when he gets home from work. When he arrives one Thursday he seems out of sorts. When, after much prodding, he reveals that he wants to end their marriage, Mary appears outwardly calm, but is boiling inside. Not only does this news shock her, but it also means that they won’t be going out for their weekly meal. While Patrick stares out the window, Mary slams a frozen leg of lamb against the back of his head. After putting the lamb on to cook and making her way to the grocery store, Mary returns and alerts the authorities of finding her husband’s body. With police detectives rushing over, they begin to look for clues that might help them solve this crime. All the while, Mary stays quiet, watching the chaos and minding the oven. A wonderful piece of writing that can be read in a few minutes, Dahl shows why he is top of his genre. Recommended to all those who love a little murder and irony over a cuppa!

I have long enjoyed the work of Roald Dahl, no matter what the topic. His ability to entertain the reader knows no boundaries and the ideas that appear in his stories seem endless. While a short piece, Dahl is able to capture the reader’s attention in the opening sentences, focussing attention on Mary Maloney and her duties as a wife (of the time). As she waits for her husband, she can see that there is something wrong, though has yet to put her finger on the source. While there is no time for backstory or real character development, Dahl does give the reader some insight with her actions as they relate to the murder of her husband. While others grace the pages of this story, there is little the reader gleans from them, keeping all the attention on the protagonist. Dahl weaves this short story together effectively, including the police procedural aspect to this brief piece of writing. Irony flows through the dialogue and the brief narrative, keeping the reader wondering where things will go and how Dahl will tie them off. Brilliantly executed, to say the least!

Kudos, Mr. Dahl, for a sensational piece. I am so very glad to have been steered in the direction of a free publication. My Dahl reading continues!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: