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The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone (1868)

by Wilkie Collins

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,707137557 (3.96)613
  1. 90
    Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (Booksloth)
  2. 62
    Drood by Dan Simmons (Jannes)
    Jannes: A (fictional) tale about Collins and his friendship with Dickens. "The Moonstone" in prominently featured. Give it a try if you're into historical thrillers.
  3. 41
    Uncle Silas: A Tale of Bartram-Haugh by J. Sheridan Le Fanu (Anonymous user)
  4. 21
    Dead Men Tell No Tales by E. W. Hornung (TineOliver)
    TineOliver: Both are essentially mystery novels, although Collins is both more pioneering and, in my view better written. While the two novels were published approximately 30 years apart, both are set in the mid 19th century. Reading both books allows the reader to place the works in context of other mystery novels from the 19th century. Accordingly, I am not suggesting that just because you enjoyed one means you will enjoy the other to the same extent.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 132 (next | show all)
I bought this book because it was recommended by some of my friends. I tried to start it a few months ago, but distractions kept me from being able to immerse myself in it at that time, and I find that immersion is required for many of the 19th century English classics (Austen, and Dickens, for example).

This is a Bantam Classic paperback in gently used condition. The cover is a little worn and the pages are slightly yellowed with age (3rd printing, 1986). They are not marked nor dog-eared.

The Moonstone is considered the first modern detective novel, but Collins himself called it "A Romance". Certainly, it had romance in it, but the major plot revolved around the solving of the mysterious disappearance of a large diamond which had been presented to a young lady on her 18th birthday.
The story begins many centuries before, with a large golden-yellow diamond set in the forehead of an Asian Indian idol, the moon god. It is constantly watched by three Brahmin Indians, succeeding in turn by three more in each generation. It is their duty to always know where the diamond is, and if possible, to return it to its rightful place. Its turbulent history includes a curse, many wars and invasions, desecration and theft. Finally, another invading army, the British, sack and plunder the castle, and when it's all over, the diamond has been removed to England.
Two years after the Moonstone has been discovered missing from the sitting room of Miss Rachel Verinder, a family member and their lawyer decide it is worthwhile to have a written record of all the events of that evening and following. Thus we have the story, written as reports from the principals, beginning with the family's elderly and faithful servant, the butler and steward, Mr. Gabriel Betteredge. Reports are also given by Miss Clack, a "poor relation" spinster lady who is much concerned with missionary endeavors and is given to writing in excessively flowery language; by Mr. Bruff, the family's solicitor, mentioned above; by a nephew and suitor of Miss Verlinder, Franklin Blake; by physician's assistant Ezra Jennings; by the famous London detective, Sergeant Cuff; and by the family doctor, Mr. Candy.
The Epilogue consists of three more reports: by Sergeant Cuff's man, by a ship captain, and by Mr. Murthwaite, a man known to the family, who is well traveled in Asia and in Europe.
Of all the characters, I liked Mr. Betteredge best. (I'll have to re-read Robinson Crusoe now!) I also liked Ezra Jennings and Sgt. Cuff, and I learned to like Rachel Verinder. She began as a spoiled teenager, but grew to a wise, forgiving, and loving young lady. Of course, the most pitiable was poor Rosanna Spearman, who loved in vain.
There are several suspects who had motives for stealing the diamond, and I confess I was unable to guess who was the guilty party. ( )
  FancyHorse | Oct 1, 2015 |
The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins, is considered one of the best and most influential detective novels from the 19th Century, praised by everyone from T.S. Eliot to Dorothy Sayers. In it, we meet Rachel, a young lady who is in love with her cousin Franklin Blake, who fortunately loves her back. However, another relative some years earlier stole a diamond from a sacred Indian statue, and that relative expressed in his Will that the stone go to Rachel upon his death. After Franklin brings the diamond to the country estate of Rachel's family, it is almost immediately stolen, and the bulk of the story consists of narratives and statements by various concerned parties describing their information as to the theft and subsequent events. Everything hinges on the information, or lack thereof, of one person, but alas! That person has caught a fever and lost his memory.... Against expectations, I really enjoyed The Moonstone, in large part because Collins made a point of having people of different social classes tell their tales, which served to make the storytelling far more fluid than the usual stiff Victorian prose that modern readers don't much like. The characters are also all interesting, and the puzzle is well-plotted. There's a certain amount of sending up the conventions of the day, assuming that a person is good because he purports to support good works, for example, which probably resonated with the original readers than they do today; but overall, it's a cracking good story, and quite recommended! ( )
  thefirstalicat | Aug 6, 2015 |
I seem to be going through a phase of re-reading books, and this is certainly one of my favourites - indeed, probably my favourite "classic".

First published in 1868, it is certainly notable for its innovative approach to story telling. Nowadays we are familiar with novels written from more than one character's perspective, but I imagine that such an approach was probably very daring back in the 1860s. Collins handles this device, which could so easily have backfired, with great deftness, and the reader gleans a deep insight into the various characters as the successive narratives unfold.

The "Moonstone" of the title is a diamond stolen from the head of a revered statue in a Hindu temple by John Herncastle, a British Officer serving in India. Over the following years stories about the lost jewel abounded, along with a growing belief that the stone might be cursed. Having subsided into illness Herncastle bequeathed the jewel to his niece Rachel Verinder, to be given to her on her eighteenth birthday.

The Moonstone is to be delivered to Rachel by her cousin Franklin Blake, formerly a great favourite of the Verinder family, who has been travelling the world for the last few years. He arranges to visit the Verinder household in Yorkshire, arriving a few days ahead of Rachel's birthday. On the day that he is expected three itinerant Indian "jugglers" turn up and perform some odd tricks in the neighbourhood, and seem to be "casing" the Verinder house. Franklin Blake arrives a little earlier and, after consulting with Betteredge (the butler and wryly sage narrator of the opening section of the story), departs to the nearby town in order to lodge the jewel in its strongroom. Before he goes he bumps in to Rosanna Spearman, one of the domestic servants in the Verinder household. We subsequently learn that she had previously been in prison after having turned to crime to escape a life of deep deprivation down in London. Mr Verinder, aware of this background but also swayed by good reports of Rosanna's reform, had employed her some months previously. In that chance encounter with Franklin Blake Rosanna immediately falls madly in love with him.

The day of the birthday arrives, and various other friends and relatives attend a special dinner. Rachel, who had known nothing about the Moonstone, is delighted by her special birthday present, and cannot be dissuaded from wearing it at the dinner table. Almost inevitably, the jewel is stolen from Rachel's room that night. Rachel herself is clearly disturbed by its loss and starts to behave in an uncharacteristically aggressive and bad-tempered manner. It soon becomes evident that she is particularly angry towards Franklin Blake.

The local Superintendent of police is called in but achieves little. Meanwhile, Franklin Blake has communicated by telegraph with his father, an MP in London, who commissions the lugubrious Sergeant Cuff to travel up to take over the investigation. Cuff is generally credited as the first great detective in English literature and he certainly comes across as an awesome character. Like so many of his modern day successors, he has his oddities and his querulous side. In Cuff's case it is gardening, and particularly the rearing of roses, that dominates his thoughts away from his job.

Cuff becomes convinced that Rachel Verinder herself is involved in the loss of the diamond, and speculates that she might somehow have incurred extensive debts, and then recruited Rosanna to help conceal the diamond and then smuggle it out of the house and down to London where it could be pawned or otherwise converted into much needed cash.

Various other misadventures befall the characters, and one year on the mystery has not yet been resolved. It is at this point that, in what was to became a tradition in whodunnit stories, the scene is recreated, and a startling yet also convincing denouement is achieved.

Collins was a close friend of Charles Dickens, and they collaborated on various publications. In The Moonstone, however, Collins displayed a fluidity and clarity of prose that Dickens never achieves. His satirical touch is light but more telling because of that. Nearly one hundred and fifty years on this novel remains fresh, accessible and immensely enjoyable. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Jul 21, 2015 |
The Moonstone is a well-written, suspenseful mystery that kept my attention throughout the entire story. I loved the characters, especially Gabriel Betteredge, the cantankerous but lovable butler who refers to Robinson Crusoe for insight about life the way some refer to the Bible. ( )
  godcity | Jul 13, 2015 |
This is supposedly one of the very first Detective novels of English literature. To be honest I found the mystery and the categorical approach to solving it to be much more well constructed and it's written in a much more captivating way than many of Holmes' detective work! The writing style is unique with narratives from different people. I guess Mitchell's more talented in adapting the absolutely different styles of five different narrators in his Cloud Atlas, but Collins was just as much talented for sure! The book is a little too long, a little boring in the middle of it and the narrations and descriptions could have been a little less, but this was first published as a periodical and this is one fault I keep finding with any such write-ups. However the main thing is the mystery holds till the very end, revealing something unique in itself and the ending chapter is quite attractive as well. Over all, this was a good read. & what is the tiring for a reader in it's length, makes up for it's witty Steward's anecdotes and the mystery itself. ( )
  PsYcHe_Sufi | Jul 12, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (115 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Collins, Wilkieprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Capriolo, EttoreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cole, G. D. H.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cole, MargaretIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Connolly, JoyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eliot, T. S.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jeffrey, PeterNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Karl, Frederick R.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lane, Dr. LauriatIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maine, G. F.General editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nayder, LillianAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stewart, J. I. M.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sutherland, JohnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Willis, ChristineEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
In the first part of Robinson Crusoe, at page one hundred and twenty-nine, you will find it thus written: 'Now I saw, though too late, The Folly of beginning a Work before we count the Cost, and before we judge rightly of our own Strength to go through with it.'
Intending praise, T. S. Eliot slung an albatross around the neck of The Moonstone with his encomium: 'the first and best of detective novels.' (Introduction)
In some of my former novels, the object proposed has been to trace the influence of circumstances upon character. (Preface)
The circumstances under which The Moonstone was originally written have invested the book - in the author's mind - with an interest peculiarly its own. (Preface to a New Edition)
I address these lines - written in India - to my relatives in England. (Prologue)
We are all of us more or less unwilling to be brought into the world. And we are all of us right.
It is one of my rules in life, never to notice what I don't understand.
Last words
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Book description
Stolen from the forehead of a Hindu idol, the dazzling gem known as "The Moonstone" resurfaces at a birthday party in an English country home-with an enigmatic trio of watchful Brahmins hot on its trail. Laced with superstitions, suspicion, humor, and romance, this 1868 mystery draws readers into a compelling tale whose twists and turns range from sleepwalking to experimentation with opium.

Described by T.S. Eliot as a "master of plot and situation," Collins possessed gifts of characterization that rivaled those of his close friend, Charles Dickens. The Moonstone exhibits these skills with suspenseful and dramatic effects, as the narrative passes from one colorful character to the next. The novel is particularly distinguished by the appearance of Sergeant Cuff, a prototype of the English detective hero and the harbinger of a popular tradition of sleuthing.
Haiku summary
History is made
As first detective novel
In English language.
Rachel gets diamond
For birthday. It's stolen at
Night: call detective!

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375757856, Paperback)

"The Moonstone is a page-turner," writes Carolyn Heilbrun. "It catches one up and unfolds its amazing story through the recountings of its several narrators, all of them enticing and singular." Wilkie Collins’s spellbinding tale of romance, theft, and murder inspired a hugely popular genre–the detective mystery. Hinging on the theft of an enormous diamond originally stolen from an Indian shrine, this riveting novel features the innovative Sergeant Cuff, the hilarious house steward Gabriel Betteridge, a lovesick housemaid, and a mysterious band of Indian jugglers.

This Modern Library Paperback Classic is set from the definitive 1871 edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:31 -0400)

(see all 11 descriptions)

Rachel Verrinder receives the stone as a gift and does not realize that it has been passed to her in a sinister form of revenge by John Herncastle who, it transpires, acquired the moonstone by means of murder and theft. The jewel also brings bad luck. The stone disappears on the very night it is given to Rachel, though, and the tale concerns the unveiling of the culprit after the intervention of Sergeant Cuff, a famous London detective.… (more)

» see all 19 descriptions

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17 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140434089, 0141198877

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