The third novel I read for R. I. P. was The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. He’s an English playwright and writer who wrote during the Victorian era and completed 30 novels, over 60 short stories, and 14 plays. One of his good friends was Charles Dickens. William Wilkie Collins grew up in London. His father, William Collins was a famous landscape artist. During his childhood, Wilkie attended Mr. Cole’s private boarding school. He was bullied by one of the boys who insisted that Collins tell him a story each night. The author credits this bully with awaking his desire to tell stories. I’m not a fan of bullies, but at least this situation had a happy outcome for Collins and for all of his fans. But if any bullies are reading this, stop being a bully. It’s mean and despicable.
Sorry, back to my post. The Moonstone relates the story of an Indian diamond, which had been confiscated by an Englishman during a war in India. He stole the stone from the forehead of a Hindu god, and smuggled it into England. It was believed that Vishnu ordered the diamond to be protected by hereditary guardians. The priceless diamond turns out to be a curse. On her eighteenth birthday, Rachel Verinder is to inherit the moonstone from her uncle. The same night that she receives it, the moonstone disappears. Earlier in the day, three Indians were seen on the Verinder property. Did they steal it? Did someone in the house? What about one of the housemaids who has a history of theft? The famous Sergeant Cuff is called in to investigate and suspicion falls on the housemaid, but did she really do it.
This epistolary novel is thought to be the first detective novel in the English world. It first appeared in serialized form in the magazine All the Year Round, published by Charles Dickens. Many consider this novel as the precursor to mystery novels. Dorothy L. Sayers said it was “probably the very finest detective story ever written.” That is quite a compliment. A part of me wants to play devil’s advocate and disagree. But I can’t. I loved this novel. It was fun to read and to speculate who did what. As it turns out, many of the guests, invited and uninvited, to Rachel’s birthday party had motive to take the diamond. And many of them are hiding something. As the mystery unraveled I was not disappointed. At times I could not read fast enough. If you’re a fan of Victorian writing and mystery novels I would highly recommend this novel.
The Moonstone is on my 1001 books you must read before you die and it counts towards R. I. P.