Summer is a great time to reread a Victorian mystery novel. I love to read a British classic between a hefty biography and a light-weight spy thriller. I feel that it provides me with a better education since I am currently home schooled. I majored in Early Graduation at BYU. I was really an English major at heart due to my love of words and writing and an ability to read quickly but my degree is actually in Sociology, another less than employable major. I had the distinction of graduating Magna Cum Laude, on the Deans list, with not one extra credit and of course pregnant. It was BYU remember.
I chose this classic written in 1868 by Wilkey Collins because my daughter Alyssa is reading it and loving it as much as I did at her age. Collins wrote this first detective novel as a literary jigsaw puzzle. He planned the novel carefully, with clues cleverly placed and introduced his readers to deductive sleuthing with his Scotland Yard Inspector Cluff. Sherlock Holmes and other literary detectives were later based on his character. One measure of a classic is how often it is stolen from by other authors – and this novel has been copied by some of the greatest.
Dickens was a close friend of Collins and admired his writing. He wrote about The Moonstone: “…a very curious story – wild, and yet domestic – with excellent character in it, and great mystery…It is prepared with extraordinary care, and has every chance of being a hit.” Dickens was right – it was a hit. In fact it sold more copies than some of Dickens own novels at the time.
The moonstone is a huge diamond stolen from a sacred shrine in India and given to an innocent young Englishwoman on her birthday. It comes of course with a curse which takes effect immediately as her peaceful country home becomes a crime scene. Prior to the gift of the diamond, the servant Mr. Betterage instructs: “Gentlefolks in general have a very awkward rock ahead in life – the rock ahead of their own idleness.” After the diamond’s disappearance, the characters emerge from their complacent lives to face misery, danger and death.
Reading The Moonstone is a graduation requirement for those of us who are now home schooled. I am glad that I revisited it despite the extra effort to find it on the shelf. I highly recommended this Wilkey Collins classic detective tale for your summer reading.