The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins: Book Review

The Moonstone is one of those books that I thought I’d read because I know the story, but actually I hadn’t. I know it because years ago I watched a TV dramatisation and the images of the Indians, the jewel, the shifting sands and Sergeant Cuff have remained in my mind ever since.

I downloaded the free e-book  to my Kindle.

I was surprised by how easy it is to read, written from several viewpoints and all so individual.  The Moonstone, a large diamond, originally stolen from a statue of an Indian God and said to be cursed is left to Rachel Verinder. She receives it on her 18th birthday and that night it is stolen from her bedroom. Chief suspects are three Indian jugglers, who are Hindu priests dedicated to retrieving the jewel. Suspicion also falls on Rosanna Spearman, one of the maids, who later drowns herself in the quicksands.

I loved the way Collins has written this book from so many different perspectives, giving a rounded picture of the investigations into the Moonstone’s theft. I particularly liked the first narrator Gabriel Betteredge, the house-steward and his reliance on Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe for comfort and enlightenment:

I am not superstitious; I have read a heap of books in my time; I am a scholar in my own way. Though turned seventy, I possess an active memory, and legs to correspond. You are not to take it, if you please, as the saying of an ignorant man, when I express my opinion that such a book as ROBINSON CRUSOE never was written, and never will be written again. I have tried that book for years’”generally in combination with a pipe of tobacco’”and I have found it my friend in need in all the necessities of this mortal life. 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.

Then, there is Sergeant Cluff, the detective who loves roses who leaves the mystery unsolved. A year later matters move on, the investigations pick up and eventually the culprit is revealed. There are many red herrings, false trails and plenty of suspense and tension before the denouement. I loved this book for its wealth of vividly drawn characters, its mystery and atmospheric settings and also its humour. Now I want to read more from Wilkie Collins.

6 thoughts on “The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins: Book Review”

  1. Margaret – Thanks for this review :-). I really like the different points of view in this novel as well. One of the other things I like about this is the sense of humour we see here and there in it. And of course, I respect it as one of the novels that established the genre. A fine review 🙂

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  2. Margot, I forgot to mention that this is one of the first crime novels!

    Dorte, I’ve earmarked The Woman in White to read soon. Glad to know it’s even better.

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  3. I’m seconding the recommendation for ‘The Woman in White’ and ‘Armadale’ and ‘No Name’ are worth a read as well. Have you read ‘The Suspicions of Mr Whicher’? If not you should read it now while ‘The Moonstone’ is fresh in your mind. The influences on Collins are very interesting indeed.

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    1. I have read ‘˜The Suspicions of Mr Whicher’, which indeed is very interesting – it reads like a novel even though it’s non-fiction. I enjoyed it very much.

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  4. Read “No Name.” A professor recommended it to me and I absolutely loved it! Collins is one of those authors that I don’t think has gotten enough credit. For me, she is right up there with the Brontes.

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