I got this book from BooksFirst at Nakumatt, for about 400 Kshs. I had finished reading another Wilkie Collins classic, The Woman in White (read the review here) and I waited for a while for the characters and the essence of the book to leave my mind so I don’t get prejudiced when reading the Moonstone.
The Moonstone is a large, yellow diamond originally stolen in India and now in England. On the 21st birthday of Miss (Rachel) Verrinder, she is gifted the diamond. When the house wakes up on the following day, the diamond is missing.
There, the story starts to unravel the mystery of whoever took the diamond. The story is told through character narration and letters, as well as entry journals, told by the characters who were central to the story at the time. The writing style is similar to The Woman in White (WIW) one, but the characters are very different. This book is also funnier and I actually liked it better than WIW. If had to choose a book to re-read, it would be this one.
This book is hailed as the birth of the detective story, because a detective is hired (Sergent Cuff) to help trace the diamond. You are kept guessing the motives of the diamond thief because everyone who was in the house has a solid alibi on the night the diamond was stolen. Rachel knows something about the diamond, but she won’t tell. The person you suspect most, and who seems to suffer the most anguish, isn’t really the thief. At some point, suspense can be so drawn out that you lose your readers, but Wilkie Collins doesn’ do that. There is just enough suspense while shedding more light on the mystery, until the story comes together beautifully in the end.
The characters who tell the story (Franklin Blake , Gabriel Betteredge , Miss Drusilla) are vain, self-important and offer various perspectives on the circumstances. “An influence of character on circumstance” as Wilkie Collins would say. In WIW, what’s at play is “an influence of circumstance on character”. You will mostly have an emotional connection and remember WIW characters fondly while in The Moonstone, you will remember the adventures (story) more than the emotional character connection. Hope I have not confused anyone.
Let me know if you enjoyed reading it!