I am trying to remember the name of a short story by Roald Dahl, about a man who systematically got drunk at home every Saturday night. His wife kills him, I think by putting something in his drink.

The man is a chemist, and his wife puts something in his drink that paralyses and eventually kills him.

  • 3
    Hi. I have noticed that you have several times rolled back edits that were intended to improve your question. This is not helpful. For example "Roald Dahl short story" is not a very descriptive title, and some of the edits that have been made were intended to improve it. I will undo your last rollback, since the previous version of this question was clearly better than the current one.
    – Tsundoku
    Dec 17, 2020 at 10:24

3 Answers 3


Are you sure it's by Roald Dahl? That description makes it sound oddly like "They Never Get Caught", but that's by Margery Allingham and is from 1936.

Harold Brownrigg, the villain of the piece, is a chemist and has the strange habit of lying down on his couch every Saturday evening and drinking brandy until he literally cannot move (not because anyone's poisoned him, just because he is so drunk).

I'll quote bits of a book review by Sammi Cox for the rest:

Harold Brownrigg is a chemist with a few money problems and a wandering eye. His wife, Millie, is just dull and stupid, nothing like some of the pretty girls that come into his shop. But none are so captivating as Phyllis, a young woman half his age.

However, Phyllis feels guilty about what they are doing even if he does not, and so decides to end it. This is too much for Harold, especially when he hears that Phyllis has been seen about town with a younger chap in a flashy car. It is becoming more and more obvious for Harold that Millie is just a problem he needs to get rid of. Once he has got rid of her, not only will it clear the way for him to be with Phyllis but he will also be able to get his hands on the money left to Millie by her father.

And so begins the intricate planning of a murder.

It's Harold who is planning to poison his wife.

Favourite Quote

Over-dark, round, hot eyes had Mr Brownrigg; not at all the sort of eyes for a little, plump, middle-aged chemist with a placid wife like Millie.

I felt very sorry for poor Millie as I moved through the story. Harold was extremely cold, even when he felt unnerved by what he was trying to do.

The twist in the tale – which I won’t mention – was very good. I didn’t expect it, probably because I was too preoccupied by the callous nature of Harold.

Of course, you know what the twist is.


You are probably looking for Lamb to the Slaughter.

The only difference is that the wife, Mary Maloney, kills her husband, Patrick, by hitting him in the back of the head with the frozen lamb leg, and not by poisoning as you seem to remember.

Quoting Wikipedia,

Mary Maloney is the anti-hero of the story. Despite being a very loyal and kind wife, she is obsessed with her husband Patrick. As a housewife devoted to making a comfortable home for Patrick and pregnant with their first child, she awaits his return home from his job as a police detective. Mary is very content in her marriage and believes her husband to be as well. When he returns, Mary notices he is uncharacteristically aloof and assumes he is tired from work. After having more to drink than usual, Patrick reveals to Mary what is making him act strangely. Although it is not explicitly stated, it is suggested that Patrick has asked for a divorce as he states she "will be looked after."

Seemingly in a trance, Mary fetches a large leg of lamb from the deep-freezer in the cellar to cook for their dinner. Patrick, his back to Mary, angrily calls to her not to make him any dinner, as he is going out. While he is looking out of the window, quite suddenly Mary strikes Patrick in the back of the head with the frozen lamb leg, killing him instantly.

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    Thanks for your response but it’s not lamb to the slaughter (that’s one of my favourites) this one I’m sure the man is a chemist. He gets drunk every Saturday and his wife puts something in his drink that paralyses and eventually kills him
    – Kirsty
    Dec 17, 2020 at 9:17

The only other Roald Dahl story I can think of with similarities is «The Landlady». Dosen’t quite for your description, but involves a woman poisoning people.

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    Hi and welcome to Literature Stack Exchange. I don't know whether your answer is correct because it does not describe how the story matches what is mentioned in the question. Please improve your answer by following the guidelines for good story-ID answers.
    – Tsundoku
    Jan 31, 2023 at 9:12

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