by Wilkie Collins
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Amazon Editorial Review
The Moonstone was described by T. S. Eliot as "the first and greatest of English detective novels."
Published in 1868, it is one of the two books (with The Woman in White) for which Collins is famous. Several incidents in the story are taken from the real life Constance Kent Road Case and the plot is Collins at his diabolical best.
The Moonstone was immensely successful when it was first serialized in the Charles Dickens magazine All the Year Round in 1868. Many of book's elements have since become classic features of the detective novel: the eventual conviction of the least-likely suspect; a bungling investigation led by local police and taken over by a more perceptive, slightly eccentric detective; the idea of a 'mcguffin' or object (in this case a diamond) that everyone wants and around which the plot pivots - to name but a few of the classic tropes first seen here.
The story begins with a brief prologue describing how the eponymous diamond was captured during a military campaign in India by a British officer in 1799. The action moves quickly to 1848 England, where, according to the British officer's will, the diamond has been given to one of the soldier's young relatives, Rachel Verinder. Rachel wears the stone to her birthday party, but that night it disappears from her room.
Was it stolen by a relative? A servant? And who are these three Indian men who keep hanging around the estate?
The intriguing and absorbing plot is told from the point of view of multiple characters - fracturing the narrative in a structure with built in suspense and a style that would be much imitated by later novelists.
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