By Wilkie Collins
Price: RRP: £4.99 but is available for free as an e-book.
Summary: A priceless Indian diamond is stolen on a young lady’s eighteenth birthday.
Review: I couldn’t wait to start reading ‘The Moonstone’ having already read ‘The Woman in White’ by Wilkie Collins. (You can find my review here: The Woman in White). However, I have to say that I was somewhat disappointed by ‘The Moonstone’ although it is still infinitely better than some of the modern detective stories that I have read.
The basic plot of the book surrounds the theft of a priceless Indian diamond which was stolen from a Hindu temple and is deemed to be cursed. The diamond is given to Rachel by her Uncle (who stole the gem from the temple) for her eighteenth birthday after his death. Rachel places the gem in her bedroom cabinet on the night of her birthday and when she awakes the following morning it has disappeared. Rachel suspects her cousin and romantic interest Franklin of the theft and the novel is written on his request in an attempt to acquit himself of the crime.
The novel is structured into several narratives written by various characters involved in recovering the diamond, much like in ‘The Woman in White’. However, unlike in ‘The Woman in White’ many of these narratives are not written by likeable character, intact the narrative by Miss Clack was nothing short of irritating. Whilst, my hatred of Miss Clack shows the skill of Collin’s characterisation it did make it hard to read her narrative as I found it to drag and rather dull due to her dull personality. This combined with the classical language of the novel made it hard going to read at times, something I did not find with ‘The Woman in White’ which was a much more rewarding read.
Without ruining the plot entirely, this too becomes a little ridiculous too and to me felt rather rushed. The fact that Franklin is suspected of the theft of the diamond does not become fully apparent until at least half way into the novel and there after becomes a rush to prove his innocence. Whilst the set up to this revelation was necessary and fairly interesting it seems a shame that after this point the novel seems somewhat rushed in comparison to the first half of the narrative. Likewise towards the middle of the novel you do feel as if the diamond is never going to be recovered and wonder where the novel is going to progress to.
However, having said all of this, I would still recommend reading ‘The Moonstone’. Collins’ is without a doubt a master of writing and his characterisation remains second to none as does his descriptive skills.Collins’ plot despite it’s flaws is carried right through the novel and all the lose ends are tied up at the end of the narrative which is highly satisfying. This is pretty skilful given the complexity of his plot. For these reasons I would recommend reading ‘The Moonstone’ despite the fact it is not as good as ‘The Woman in White’. Furthermore, the book is widely recognised as one of the first detective stories to be published and it is interesting to see how the genre has progressed. It is also refreshing to read a detective story which is relatively tame compared to some of the hideous acts described in many of today’s crime fiction novels.
I would recommend that readers start with ‘The Woman in White’ and if you enjoy this then read ‘The Moonstone’ because the latter is good but the former is truly a great read. Have you read both, if so do you agree with me? Do you disagree with my review? Please let me know.