Book Review: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Wilkie Collins.Image via Wikipedia
I was introduced to the writer, Wilkie Collins many years ago through his novel The Woman in White, a romantic, suspenseful mystery novel written through the eyes of a number of storytellers.

The Moonstone is written in a similar fashion, a record of events contributed by members of the family affected by the Moonstone's seeming curse, their elderly butler Gabriel Betteredge, the family solicitor and the retired policeman Sergeant Cuff. Considered to be the first detective novel, The Moonstone is in essence a number of witness accounts describing the days and events before, at the time of and after the theft of the fated diamond that lends its name to the novel.

Collins had a wonderful eye for detail, weaving an intricate pattern of clues that eventually lead to the discovery of the culprit. He skilfully sets up the mystery of the theft, surrounding the crime with hints, red herrings and an increasing number of questions

As a writer of murder mystery plays, I found Collins' method of adding layer upon layer of information from differing viewpoints fascinating. Gabriel Betteredge presents the first few days of the main storyline in a straightforward manner, very much like himself, honest and blunt. At the end of his account, we are left as questioning of what has happened as he is. In fact, Betteredge represents the reader as observer and questioner, making discoveries as we do.

The main characters are painted with colour and depth. They are not necessarily likeable but they are representative of their historical context - for instance, Miss Clack's fervent (if self serving) Christian beliefs and Betteredge's attitude to class, place in society and foreigners. Along with the mystery of the theft, we find the tragic story of the servant, Rosanna Spearman, and the growing, if interrupted, romance between Rachel Verinder and Franklin Blake.

The Moonstone is, if you'll excuse the pun, a gem of a read whether you enjoy crime fiction or Victorian novels or both.


  1. I prefered The Moonstone to The Woman in White. Don't get me wrong I liked The Woman in White however I saw part of the twist coming - whereas with The Moonstone I had no idea how it had been done.

  2. As a fan of Victorian novels I will definitely have to put this book on my list. Sounds like it has an interesting cast of characters. Thanks for an interesting review.

  3. Chippy - I have to admit that I actually enjoyed the Moonstone more too, not from the point of view of predictability (because I'd worked out who the Moonstone culprit was before the end) but I preferred the construct of the Moonstone - it felt more directed. I also loved the character of Gabriel Betteredge.

    Carol - if you like Victorian novels, then do drop in again because I have plans to review several Victorian novels/novellas/short stories in future.

  4. This sounds interesting, though I don't read a lot of mystery anymore. I used to but I stopped some years ago. I might pick this up though. Thanks for the great review and I've already got a TBR stack toppling all around me.

  5. Mystery novels can be amazing when they are done well. it sounds like Collins is great at weaving clues.

  6. Ah, I always thought mysteries made the best movies. It's so fun to try and guess the ending. I always enjoyed Clue. Thanks for sharing the read. :)

  7. Hi. Like Dawn, I don't read a lot of mystery (in fact none at all in many years) but your review here makes me want to read it! Oh wait, I did read "The Thirteenth Tale" recently, which did have a mystery to it and was written in the style of Wuthering Heights. I loved it. Anyway, will add this to my book list too! Thank you for the review.

  8. Thanks for the reivew. I love this book - it always seems amazingly fresh and 'modern', yet with all the intrigue and intricacy of the best Victorian novels.


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