Readers’ Notes, The Elsinore Vanish

1. Hamlet

In the first pages of the Prologue Tim quotes Hamlet. What other references to this play are there in the book?

Can you see any parallels in Tim’s situation with Hamlet?

2. Murder

At the end of Chapter 3 Matt says for most people murder is an exciting story in newspapers. He says people don’t think about how real and dreadful murders are unless they are involved directly.

Do you agree?

Is this how you and your family or friends think about real world murders?

3. Loss and Grief

Matt describes the effects of loss and grief. Can you be aware of what it is like for people who lose loved ones, even if it has never happened to you?

In Devastation Road, Matt was confronted with death, close up, for the first time and he talked with parents who had lost daughters. He began to think about the fact that we all die. If that hadn’t happened to him, do you think he would have been as concerned with loss and grief at the beginning of The Elsinore Vanish?

4. Having it all together

Matt is constantly thinking that he doesn’t understand things. His life doesn’t feel planned.

Is it just him? Do we all feel like this? Does he feel it more strongly than others?

5. A Mistake

Matt is talking about the people who feel responsible for helping deal with the tragedy of a murder. People who are close to it and who are involved. He says ‘We’re not in that group this time. This one isn’t for us.’

Soon he feels he has made a mistake. What is the mistake he made?

6. An artist.

How does this affect the way he describes things?

Do you think he is more aware of light and colour than most sixteen year olds?

This is something I often write about because it fascinates me – the ways we try to make sense of the world. I am fascinated with the idea that artists try to understand the world and discover meaning through art.

7. The Card Trick is Not Impossible

Paz’s tricks are good. He makes things disappear and tricks Chess shuffling cups around. Most of the tricks we can believe that they are possible if he is extremely good at sleight of hand.

But the card trick The Elsinore Vanish seems impossible.

One early reader told me I should change it because it was unconvincing having him do something that was impossible.

But the trick The Elsinore Vanish is not impossible.

You know that Paz is extremely good at sleight of hand. Can you work out how it could be done?

8. Why does Paz love the impossible?

He says:

‘The thing about magic is, you get to see something impossible. And when that happens the whole world …’ He looked for a way to describe it. ‘… opens.’

What do you think he means?

8. Rationality

Angus and Chess are both committed to solving mysteries by using small logical steps.

Is this always the best way of working things out?

How does Chess arrive at the solution in The Elsinore Vanish?

9. Intuition

What do we mean by the term intuition?

Is this how Chess solved the murder mystery in The Elsinore Vanish?

For me, when we say someone has used their intuition we might mean they have understood how other people are thinking and feeling, they have been observant of non-verbal cues.

Or they might have made a big leap in judgement, leaping over many small logical steps at once. Maybe this has happened subconsciously.

Agatha Christie’s famous detective, Miss Marple, had been observing people for all of her long life and she could recognise patterns in the behaviour of the people around her. She could draw parallels with other situations she had seen long ago, and this allowed her to understand what was going on. People often call that intuition.