Lamb to the Slaughter

“infobox Book “
name Lamb to the Slaughter and Other Stories
image caption Penguin 60s Edition
author Roald Dahl
country United Kingdom
language English language
genre(s) Short story
publisher Penguin
release date 1953
media type Hardback
pages 87

Despite arguably being best known for his children’s works, Roald Dahl also wrote fiction for adults. This collection of short works, titled Lamb to the Slaughter and Other Stories comprises five of Dahl’s best-loved short stories for adults.

Lamb to the Slaughter is a tale of murder tinged with black comedy. It was first published in 1953.

Character Summaries

Mary Maloney

An expectant mother who kills her husband Patrick by hitting him on the back of the head with a frozen leg of lamb. She does this because he wants a divorce. Mary then hides the crime from the police.

Patrick Maloney

Mary’s husband. A policeman, he is murdered by his wife.


The grocer.

Jack Noonan

One of the policemen who come to investigate Patrick’s murder.


Another of the policemen who come to investigate Patrick’s murder.

Plot Summary

Mary Maloney is six months pregnant and waiting for her policeman husband Patrick to return home from work for dinner. Mary loves her husband and thinks that his return from work is the best part of the day – so she is blindsided by his wish for a divorce.

Mary goes into the kitchen after receiving this news and begins to prepare the leg of lamb from the freezer for dinner. The leg of lamb does not get cooked, however, it becomes a murder weapon instead. Mary hits her husband on the back of the head with the frozen piece of the meat and kills him instantly.

Worried about what will happen to her and her unborn child if she is caught, Mary carefully tries to stage everything as if Patrick has been murdered by someone else. She goes out to the store so that she has an alibi, and on returning home calls the police and acts as though someone has broken in and killed her husband.

The two policeman arrive at Mary’s house and begin the investigation. She invites them for dinner, and little do they know that the leg of lamb they are eating is actually the murder weapon itself.