The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1868)

This novel is generally regarded by most to be the first detective story and to have established many of the detective literary devices. The Wikipedia page about this book is an interesting document in of itself to find out more about the history and literary significance of this novel.

If this plot outline doesn’t intrigue you, nothing I say will:

Rachel Verinder, a young English woman, inherits a large Indian diamond on her eighteenth birthday. It is a legacy from her uncle, a corrupt British army officer who served in India. The diamond is of great religious significance and extremely valuable, and three Hindu priests have dedicated their lives to recovering it. The story incorporates elements of the legendary origins of the Hope Diamond (or perhaps the Orloff Diamond or the Koh-i-Noor diamond). Rachel’s eighteenth birthday is celebrated with a large party at which the guests include her cousin Franklin Blake. She wears the Moonstone on her dress that evening for all to see, including some Indian jugglers who have called at the house. Later that night the diamond is stolen from Rachel’s bedroom, and a period of turmoil, unhappiness, misunderstandings and ill luck ensues. Told by a series of narratives from some of the main characters, the complex plot traces the subsequent efforts to explain the theft, identify the thief, trace the stone and recover it.

The Moonstone, published in 1868, still holds up after over 150 years. I was drawn in right away by the first page where we learn dubious circumstances surrounding this family heirloom. It’s a story about the disappearance of a huge diamond, The Moonstone, which, after a death in the family, is inherited by Ms. Rachael. The story is told through many different points of views. These narrators all have their own personalities, and agendas. I hesitate to spoil any part of the fabulous novel by revealing too much.

I don’t read mystery or detective novels at all but really liked this. This is a great novel that stands on its own and transcends the ‘mystery’ genre. If you’re looking to get your feet wet with an easy to read classic book, you can’t do much better than this. It’s pretty short. It’s funny at times. It has reasonably short chapters. I would recommend not stopping midway through a narration though; when you jump back in it’s hard to get your bearings again and remember who is narrating the story. It was also harder for me because I was reading this on my Kobo in bed, while the kids were tossing and turning trying to get to sleep.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #92 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge

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