‘The Landlady’ by Roald Dahl

“But I’m always ready. Everything is always ready day and night in this house just on the offchance that an acceptable young gentleman will come along.”

Seventeen-year-old Billy Weaver travels to Bath with work. Having been told to find his own lodgings, he chances across an odd but competitively priced Bed & Breakfast. He receives a warm welcome, has a chat about the names in the visitors book, and joins the landlady for a cup of tea and a biscuit.

I tend to read it for fun at first, then force them to think about the way the story is structured afterwards.

How does the writer prevent us from realising the woman is a murderer until the end of the story? Are there any hints that the Bed & Breakfast and the woman aren’t normal? Look again at the last sentence – is this a good way to end the story? Is it better to know a story is a scary story from the beginning, or is it better to find this out as a surprise?

First published in The New Yorker in November 1959; then anthologised in Kiss Kiss, Michael Joseph, 1960

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