by Collins, Wilkie
T.S. Eliot called `The Moonstone the first and greatest English detective novel. The novel is worthy of such praise.
The story begins with a brief prologue describing how the famous yellow 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 officers will, the diamond has been given to one of the soldiers young relatives, Rachel Verinder. Yet only hours after the diamond arrives at the Verinder estate, it disappears. Was it stolen by a relative? A servant? And who are these three Indian men who keep hanging around the estate?
`The Moonstone is told from the point of view of several characters. The first portion of the tale is told by Gabriel Betteredge, house steward of the Verinder estate, who has been working for the family practically his entire life. Betteredges account holds the readers interest as he introduces the main players and the crime itself. The next account, by distant Verinder relative Miss Clack, is humorous and somewhat important. But after Miss Clacks account, things really take off at breakneck speed.
Readers who latch onto the T.S. Eliot quote expecting a modern detective tale will be sorely disappointed. You arent going to see anything resembling Jeffrey Deaver, James Patterson, Sue Grafton, or even Mary Higgins Clark. You also wont see Mickey Spillane, Dashiel Hammett, or Raymond Chandler. Nor will you see Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, or Martha Grimes. You wont even see Arthur Conan Doyle. But you WILL see the novel that influenced them all.
Youll also see something else. Something that modern mystery/detective writers have for the most part lost. Characters. Oh sure, modern writers have characters, but for the most part, the reader only learns enough about the character to forward the plot. In our time, plot is King. When `The Moonstone was published (1868),
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