The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

cover imageMany years have slipped by since I last read The Moonstone. I was reminded of it when it was suggested as a book club read and thought it must be time to take another look. The book tells of the disappearance of a rare diamond, the Moonstone. The events surrounding its disappearance are related in turn by a number of individuals, each of whom is involved to some extent.
The book is a delight. There is a lot of humour, particularly in the first half when it feels like a combination of P G Woodhouse and Charles Dickens. The characters are captured perfectly; even those on the fringe, such as Ezzra Jennings, or the street urchin known as Gooseberry, left me wanting to learn much more about them.
A couple of things caught my eye this time around. The book is frequently referred to as the first detective novel, but the detective in it says, ‘It’s only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake.’ So, presumably, detective novels were already well known.
I had the feeling that the cult of celebrity must be an invention of our times tied in with our current media enabling instant fame, but writing in 1868 Collins says, ‘In our modern system of civilisation, celebrity (no matter of what kind) is the lever that will move anything.’
A beautifully written book that gives a fascinating insight into attitudes of the time, as well as being an entertaining ‘whodunnit’. The only downside lies in this ebook version. I obtained it as a free download for Kindle from Amazon The Moonstone
. The formatting has been disrupted and it’s hard to read without that being a distraction – but it’s difficult to complain when the conversion means that the book is available free of charge.
On the other hand the complete works of Wilkie Collins can be bought for less than £2 from Amazon Delphi Complete Works of Wilkie Collins (Illustrated) which has to be a bargain.