The Landlady by Roald Dahl

by Arun

Theme for the Week: Edgar Winners

Source: Kiss Kiss, The Edgar Winners.

Story Number: 74

Roald Dahl won his first Edgar for the highly acclaimed story Lamb to The Slaughter. Six years later, he won his second Edgar for The Landlady.

This is one of those teasers where the reader is expecting something worse to happen, the reader can anticipate the impending tragedy and yet the protagonist is so oblivious of! It’s a very cunning game between the reader and the author where the author is leading the reader to believe that he can anticipate what’s gone happen next but the author, with a grin on his face,  holds that climax hanging till the end with such subtlety that the reader will be left wondering whether the author pulled a fast one on him!

Billy Weaver is looking for a hotel room when a Bed & Breakfast notice catches his interest. Before he knows what he is doing, he has rung the bell and even before he has withdrawn his hand, the Landlady has opened the door and invited him in. The price for the stay is half of what he intended to pay, the service impeccable as though one is being treated by his or her best friend’s mother. Weaver happens to glance at the guest book and the only 2 names in that book strikes a chord in his memory – both were either famous or both were talked about in a newspaper for the same reason. But he can’t recollect what it was. Then starts the cat and mouse game between Weaver and the Landlady – Weaver trying to identify those two individuals and the Landlady trying to elude him on this venture. In the meantime, he notices several odd things which he hadn’t noticed before like how the parrot which looked so alive from outside turns out to be a stuffed animal; how the dog, always resting nearing the fireplace turns out to be a stuffed Dachshund; how the two men whom he is trying to recollect were exactly similar to him in physical and other characteristics –  all build up the suspense to an inevitable climax.