-by Wilkie Collins
438 pages (1868)
magnum opus of suspense and intrigue
T.S. Eliot was not exaggerating when he dubbed Collins' masterpiece "the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels". The Moonstone, first published in 1868, is the magnum opus of suspense and intrigue that will surely please the avid mystery and/or classics buff.
The adventure begins when the priceless yellow diamond from India, known as the 'Moonstone', is brought to English as spoils of war and is bestowed upon the spirited Rachel Verrinder on her 18th birthday. Chaos soon commences. The valuable jewel is stolen that very night and the entire household falls under suspicion – including a hunchbacked maid, an assemblage of enigmatic Indian jugglers, and Miss Verrinder’s cousin Mr. Franklin Blake. Suspicion of thievery does not even escape Miss Verrinder herself. The famed Sergeant Cuff is summoned to the house to try and make sense of the baffling mystery of the diamond’s disappearance and the strange events that ensue.
The Moonstone is comprised of three novelettes and a handful of sub-sections, each narrated by three individuals (and a handful of other characters writing shorter supporting memoirs), with their own whimsical writing styles and detailed anecdotes about their adventures surrounding the jewel's disappearance and the aftermath. Their varying perspectives on incidents throw interesting light on the events unraveling around the reader. Introducing the novel is the household’s elderly and garrulous manservant, Mr. Gabriel Betteredge, with his witty maxims and proverbial quotes from his personal bible, “Robinson Crusoe”. The pious and almost-fanatical Miss Clack’s cold recital of events, is followed soon after by Mr. Franklin Blake’s narrative of events, and the mystery’s final and most ingenious outcome. It will not disappoint.
I leave you with a bit of insight bestowed upon us by the lovable and amusing Mr. Betteredge:
"When my spirits are bad -- Robinson Crusoe. When I want advice -- Robinson Crusoe. In past times when my wife plagued me; in present times when I have had a drop too much -- Robinson Crusoe. I have worn out six stout Robinson Crusoes with hard work in my service. On my lady's last birthday she gave me a seventh. I took a drop too much on the strength of it; and Robinson Crusoe put me right again. Price four shillings and sixpence, bound in blue, with a picture into the bargain.Still, this don't look much like starting the story of the Diamond -- does it? I seem to be wandering off in search of Lord knows what, Lord knows where. We will take a new sheet of paper, if you please, and begin over again, with my best respects to you."