Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Lamb to the Slaughter

Rate this book
"The room was warm and clean, the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight – hers and the one by the empty chair opposite..."

Lamb to the Slaughter (1953) is a short story by Roald Dahl. It was initially rejected, along with four other stories, by The New Yorker, but was ultimately published in Harper's Magazine in September 1953. It was adapted for an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and starred Barbara Bel Geddes. Originally broadcast on April 13, 1958, it was one of only 17 AHP episodes directed by Hitchcock himself. The story was subsequently adapted for Dahl's British TV series Tales of the Unexpected. Dahl also included it in his short story compilation Someone Like You.

Lamb to the Slaughter demonstrates Dahl's fascination with horror (including elements of black comedy), a theme that would influence both his in adult fiction as well as his children stories.

15 pages, Kindle Edition

First published September 1, 1953

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Roald Dahl

1,308 books23.7k followers
Roald Dahl was a British novelist, short story writer and screenwriter of Norwegian descent, who rose to prominence in the 1940's with works for both children and adults, and became one of the world's bestselling authors.

Dahl's first published work, inspired by a meeting with C. S. Forester, was Shot Down Over Libya. Today the story is published as A Piece of Cake. The story, about his wartime adventures, was bought by the Saturday Evening Post for $900, and propelled him into a career as a writer. Its title was inspired by a highly inaccurate and sensationalized article about the crash that blinded him, which claimed he had been shot down instead of simply having to land because of low fuel.

His first children's book was The Gremlins, about mischievous little creatures that were part of RAF folklore. The book was commissioned by Walt Disney for a film that was never made, and published in 1943. Dahl went on to create some of the best-loved children's stories of the 20th century, such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda and James and the Giant Peach.

He also had a successful parallel career as the writer of macabre adult short stories, usually with a dark sense of humour and a surprise ending. Many were originally written for American magazines such as Ladies Home Journal, Harper's, Playboy and The New Yorker, then subsequently collected by Dahl into anthologies, gaining world-wide acclaim. Dahl wrote more than 60 short stories and they have appeared in numerous collections, some only being published in book form after his death. His stories also brought him three Edgar Awards: in 1954, for the collection Someone Like You; in 1959, for the story "The Landlady"; and in 1980, for the episode of Tales of the Unexpected based on "Skin".

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
2,542 (41%)
4 stars
2,404 (39%)
3 stars
980 (15%)
2 stars
182 (2%)
1 star
40 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 660 reviews
Profile Image for Swrp.
662 reviews
October 29, 2021
13th of September is globally celebrated as Roald Dahl day!

[Roald Dahl 1916-1990, roalddahl.com.]

Roald Dahl was a spy, an ace fighter pilot, a chocolate historian and a medical inventor. He was also the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The BFG, and a treasury of original, evergreen, and beloved children’s books [source: roalddahl.com.]


Here`s a different Dahl! - simply wonderful

Lamb to the Slaughter, first published in 1953, is completely different from all the other Dahl stories that I have read until now. However, as is the case with other Dahl books, Lamb to the Slaughter will also have to come with a ‘do not try this at home’ warning!

When on that particular day, Mr Patrick Maloney, a police detective, comes home from work and informs a six months pregnant Mrs Mary Maloney about a decision he has made, a dazed and shocked Mrs Maloney takes things into her hands. Even though her first instinct was not to believe any of it, to reject it all, Mary ends up surprising herself and then begins to giggle...


A gripping and engaging 'mystery' read!

I recommend NOT TO read any of the blurbs, write-ups or reviews as they may contain spoilers, and just go ahead and read this simple and wonderful story by Roald Dahl.
Profile Image for Ahmed  Ejaz.
549 reviews325 followers
August 21, 2018
"It's the old story," he said. "Get the weapon, and you've got the man."
Woah! This is a kind of short story one wouldn't expect from a children author. But Roald Dahl nailed it so good. I loved this!

Husband and wife: Patrick and Mary Maloney

It's a crime story. When Mary's husband comes home after his detective job, he is acting very unusual. He tells her about leaving her for good and will be taking care of her. But she is very shocked and kills her husband. Then she plots a plan to escape from this murder.

As far as the crime is concerned, it's a perfect one. The way she killed him, the way she hid that weapon is utterly shocking, amazing aaand funny!

This a perfect short story. MUST READ IT!!!!!

19 August, 2018
Profile Image for Alex ☣ Deranged KittyCat ☣.
651 reviews402 followers
December 17, 2017
I know this story! I've always thought it's some sort of urban legend about the perfect crime. And I am delighted to read it properly (you can, too, here).

It all happens one afternoon, when the husband comes home and acts all weird and grumpy. His pregnant wife does her best to start a conversation with him, and fails. After two strong drinks, he finally decides to tell her he is leaving her (or so I think - this conversation is only implied). Next, the wife experiences a breakdown and kills him.

The interesting part is how she does it! And I'm sure you must have heard this story before. Go, read it anyway! It will be worth the 5-10 minutes you spend reading it.
Profile Image for Ken.
2,163 reviews1,324 followers
April 12, 2020
I've always liked Dahl's humorously dark storytelling since childhood and have grown to appreciate many of his tales for adults.

Most of his short stories were adapted for TV under the title 'Tales of the Unexpected' and this title perfectly encapsulates that.

As Mary Maloney reacts to the shocking news that her husband Patrick has just announced by killing him, clearly the senior policeman's work has rubbed of on his wife as she is about to cook up the most devious of schemes.

Short and to the point, this is a perfect starting point for those that only know Dahl's children's books.
Profile Image for Matt.
3,718 reviews12.8k followers
February 8, 2019
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!

Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...
Profile Image for Rosh [semi-hiatus].
1,435 reviews1,370 followers
July 15, 2021
When Harry Belafonte sang "Man Smart (Woman Smarter)", I'm sure he was only half-kidding. :P

This is a story about one super-smart woman who gave it back to her cheating husband in a way that no one expected. You might have read Roald Dahl for his children's fiction. Now give this short story a try. It's much more satisfying to the senses, possibly more so if you are a woman. :D I enjoyed it thoroughly.

This story is in the public domain and you can read it here: https://www.classicshorts.com/stories...

Profile Image for Stacey.
874 reviews161 followers
June 29, 2017
Oh, Mary Maloney. You are a clever woman! And no shame. Mary has just pulled off the perfect murder and the weapon is made to good use.

I have a weakness for dark humor and when I'm not expecting it, it's even better. I have only read James and the Giant Peach by Ronald Dahl which I liked, but his adult fiction hits the mark. This short story is only 18 pages, but very entertaining.
Profile Image for Michael Sorbello.
Author 1 book239 followers
May 6, 2023
Mary is a loving wife and mother-to-be (so it seems) who savagely murders her husband with the leg of a lamb she was going to feed him for dinner after learning that he was planning to leave her. Her deceased husband Patrick who worked as a police officer attracts a lot of attention from his fellow officers who come to investigate the crime scene as soon as they learn about the incident. Mary, using her cunning wits and deceptive adorableness plays them all like a fiddle while hiding the truth of the crime (literally) right under their noses.

A very comedic horror story about how fast a person can snap or reveal their true colors when someone brings inconvenience into their life. The way Mary is introduced makes you think that her marriage is perfect and that she's the epitome of a perfect wife, but the moment her husband claims he's going to leave her, she snaps and reveals how violent and mentally unstable she is. This hints that there are probably some underlying issues that made Patrick want to leave her in the first place. There's a big difference between how people describe themselves and how they actually are. The gap between Mary's bubbly personality with how cold-blooded and disconnected from reality she's portrayed to be is chilling.

I wish the story was longer than just a few pages. If it was novella length and went more in depth about Mary's life and what she's really like beneath the sweet surface, it would make for a great psychological thriller.

My rating: 3.5/5
Profile Image for Jen .
2,544 reviews27 followers
July 31, 2017
I giggled at the end too. All the stars! I love how twisted Roald Dahl is. Sigh. Short and sweet. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Ësrât  Járïñ.
450 reviews60 followers
July 15, 2021
The perfect crime never exist in this world of illusion.just get the weapon,you will have the man with motive.

তো গল্পের শুরুতেই এক সাদামাটা দম্পতির রোজকার ঠুকঠাকের মাঝে প‍্যাট্রিক যখন বোমাটা ফেললো,মেরী অবশ্য বেশি কিছু করেনি ,বলেওনি যে ছয়মাসের অনাগত সন্তান নিয়ে তার বর্তমান মানসিক তোলপাড়ের তথ‍্য কাউকে।

সুখী গৃহকোনের সুখী দাম্পত্যের দেয়ালের আড়ালে কয়েক মিনিট আগেই নামসর্বস্ব সম্পর্কের শেষ হয়ে যাওয়ার পর মূহুর্তের যে নাটকের যবনিকা পড়ছে ,হজম করতে বেশ অসুবিধে না হলেও হৃদয়ঙ্গম তো মোটেই হয়নি।

মজাদার মাংসের শেষ টুকরোতে রসনার অসংযমী আচরনের সা��ে চিরতরে হারিয়ে গেল প‍্যাট্রিকের প্রস্থানের পিছনের সব প্রশ্ন প্রমান।

Probably right under our very noses,what you think jack?
And in other room Mary Maloney began to giggle.

বুদ্ধু পুলি���বাবু প্রমাণ তোমরা সযত্মে স্বহস্তে পেটে লোপাট করে দিয়ে কোন চুলোয় খুঁজবে এখন?! 😒
Profile Image for this is shin.
127 reviews85 followers
September 10, 2018
خوندنش کیف داد :)
یک مجموعه داستان کوتاه متفاوت و قابل توجه و جالب
Profile Image for Imme [hiatus] van Gorp.
488 reviews208 followers
July 4, 2022
|| 4.0 stars ||

This short story is a depiction of ‘the perfect crime’ where a woman kills her husband without any preparations. Everything she does is done in the heat of the moment, and yet she is able to execute it perfectly.
Aside from the details of the crime itself, which I will not discuss due to ‘spoilers’, I also find it interesting to consider the woman’s psyche. She’s quite difficult to read as her behaviour sends out a lot of mixed signals, and I am still not sure if she was a bad person, maybe even a sociopath, or if she had only gone crazy in the moment due to being in shock. The human mind is baffling.
Profile Image for Mo.
1,591 reviews164 followers
January 4, 2015
This is the title of the first chapter of 'The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry'. You can find a copy of this short story here

It will take you about 5 minutes to read it. It is very good, and makes me want to locate a copy of 'Someone Like You'.
Profile Image for rose.
18 reviews9 followers
April 2, 2020
This book is very very good i loved it i thought near the end when she tricked the men to eating the lamb that she killed her husband with was the part loved they ate the lamb and then said to each other the weapon should be in the house when they were eating the weapon lamb.
Profile Image for Suzi.
105 reviews1 follower
May 20, 2018
A super short story, but it totally counts as 1 book, right? Right.
Profile Image for Sarah Marie.
1,830 reviews227 followers
October 21, 2017
Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl

5 stars

This is one of the most fascinating stories I've ever read. It's four pages and a lot happens in that brief space, which is impressive on Dahl's part, but also it's sparked the urban legend of a wife smart enough to hide the murder weapon (a lamb) by feeding it to the detectives. I want to thank one of my best friends for recommending this short story to me because without this odd recommendation and conversation I wouldn't have found this spooky story. I think my personal favorite thing about this story was the character shift from perfect, content suburban housewife to enraged, passionate killer to a cold, calculating woman desiring to get away with murder.

February 1, 2020
Ooh, creepy! I think this is a story that most people know - I've heard it from some other places. It's still highly enjoyable. Hard to believe this is the same author as James and the Giant Peach and Matilda!

I liked this. Check it out if it's your type of story. Quick read.
Profile Image for Bidisha.
48 reviews24 followers
December 2, 2019
WOAH, this is what classic black humor is about. So smooth the narrative, so gripping the story, so delicious the result.

Just wow. Cold-blooded.
Profile Image for tasmia.
29 reviews1 follower
March 19, 2023
if it’s a roald dahl book, it’s obviously gonna be 5 stars
Profile Image for ☇Briannan∞.
21 reviews10 followers
April 20, 2017
Mary Maloney was obviously a genius murderer. She committed the perfect crime & had the police literally dispose of the evidence.

This is only the second "adult" fiction work I have read of Roald Dahl, and to say the least, I am not at all disappointed. At about 15 pages, I read through it like it was more like 5 pages. The story kept me interested all the way to the end & had the dark comical aspect to it that I adore in stories. Such a great read! If you think Roald Dahl was nothing more than a children's story writer, I highly recommend delving into his more mature works, you definitely won't be disappointed!
Profile Image for liv.
134 reviews8 followers
October 27, 2019
I read this in school, very different from normal murder mysteries but great noneoftheless!
Profile Image for Raha.
186 reviews177 followers
August 12, 2017
این کتاب شامل 6 داستان کوتاه هست که هر کدوم پایان نسبتا" غافلگیر کننده و جالبی داشت
Displaying 1 - 30 of 660 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.