The Skull Beneath the Skin Essay Questions

Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Why do you think an inexperienced detective like Cordelia Gray was able to solve the case when two experienced police officers were not?

    The police officers were reliant on traditional questioning of the guests on Courcy Island after the murder, when everyone had already taken the opportunity to decide what to reveal to the police and what to hide; they therefore stick to tries and tested questions, creating possible scenarios for themselves and only knowing of each character what he or she chose to portray. By contrast, Cordelia lived among the guests, and had already familiarized herself with their relationships, their dynamic and also the geography of the castle itself that would allow for a murder to be committed or an escape to be mounted. She also saw the clipping that Clarissa had kept to taunt Ambrose Gorringe with, enabling her to make the connection between him and the battering of Clarissa's face. The police had not been made aware of this and were therefore unable to make those connections that made solving the crime possible.

  2. 2

    Which of the novel's characters do you believe to have had a stronger motive for Clarissa's murder and could the identity of an alternative killer have been believably written?

    Clarissa Lisle had impacted every character in the book in a negative way so it would be easy to believe that any one of them was guilty of her murder. However, in his current physical condition it would be difficult to make a case for Ivo Whittingham's guilt. Roma Lisle appears to have harbored a lifelong resentment of Clarissa, and aside from benefiting financially from her cousin's death, she would also see herself to be benefiting emotionally as she believes an upturn in the fortunes of her book store would keep her lover, again only possible via inheritance. Roma was also profoundly jealous of Clarissa's ability to captivate every man she ever met, commenting to Cordelia that she couldn't stand to see her cousin using rhose eyes to get what she wanted anymore; this was a clever teaser by the author since Clarissa's eyes were gouged and covered up during her attack, and therefore suggesting Roma as prime suspect for the murder.

  3. 3

    How is Courcy Island more like a character than a location in this novel?

    Courcy Island takes on the guise of however Cordelia is feeling at that time, thereby attributing emotion to a place in an almost humanizing way. On arrival she is optimistic and the island is described on terms of its beauty and its tranquility, also feeling safe in that it is cut off from the mainland. After the murder it's secrets and macabre histories personify the island, attributing darkness, fear and tragedy where there had been beauty and optimism. Where being away from the mainland had seemed safe it now seems claustrophobic and threatening. The island has a personality of its own that enables the story to be darker and more mournful that it would have been had the events taken place on the mainland, where this disconnection from safety and society would not have been created.

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