Mary Maloney

The story’s protagonist and wife of Patrick Maloney. Mary is a devoted housewife who loves her husband dearly. She is six months pregnant. After Patrick callously reveals that he intends to leave her, Mary snaps and kills him with a blow to the head using a frozen leg of lamb. Mary is able to cover up the murder with cunning intuition as she roasts the murder weapon, feigns innocence, and feeds the leg of lamb to the unsuspecting detectives.

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Patrick Maloney

The husband of Mary Maloney and the murder victim. Patrick is a well-loved police detective. He receives Mary’s loving gestures and caring actions with dismissive hostility. He informs Mary of his intent to leave her with callous disregard, though he confirms that he will pay for her living expenses. This prompts Mary to kill him with a frozen leg of lamb. Notably, Patrick’s name is revealed halfway through the story after he has already been killed.

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Jack Noonan

A sergeant on the police force and friend to the Maloneys. Jack is the first to arrive at the murder scene after Mary’s phone call. He is incredibly sympathetic toward Mary and yet simultaneously condescending. He never suspects her of Patrick’s murder, and he and the rest of the police force are unwittingly duped into consuming the murder weapon.

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The grocer and Mary’s unwitting alibi. After killing Patrick, Mary goes to the grocery store to prove she was elsewhere when her husband was murdered in their home. To pull this off she needs Sam as a witness. He is familiar with the Maloneys and accommodating and chatty enough to have a brief conversation that makes the purchase memorable. Sam becomes the perfect witness. The police confirm Mary’s story with Sam and thus rule her out as a suspect.


A responder who shows up at the Maloney home after the murder. Just as Sam the grocer is given no surname, the narrator grants O’Malley no first name. It is O’Malley who first kneels to inspect the corpse and then rushes off to question Sam, returning with notes and a hushed, confidential account of the interrogation that deflects suspicion away from Mary.


A group of investigators who examine the Maloney home. The team consists of a doctor, four detectives (Jack Noonan, O’Malley, and two unnamed), a police photographer, a fingerprint taker, and, later, two attendants who remove the corpse. There is an additional policeman who examines the ground around the outside of the house.