The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins is a classic Victorian-era locked-room mystery novel, first published in 1868. It is considered by many to be the first detective novel in English literature. The novel follows the story of the theft of a valuable diamond, the Moonstone, and the subsequent investigation to solve the crime.
The novel is written in multiple perspectives, with each chapter told from the point of view of a different character. This allows the reader to get inside the heads of the various characters and see their motivations and perspectives. The characters themselves are well-drawn and varied, with each having their own quirks and flaws.
One of the strengths of The Moonstone is its intricate plot. The novel is divided into three parts, with each part focusing on a different stage of the investigation. The first part sets up the mystery, introducing the characters and the circumstances surrounding the theft of the Moonstone. The second part focuses on the investigation itself, as various characters try to solve the crime. The final part brings everything together and reveals the truth behind the theft.
The pacing of the novel is well-done, with the tension and suspense building gradually throughout the story. The final part of the novel is particularly thrilling, as the various plot threads come together and the mystery is finally solved.
The locked-room mystery aspect of the novel is also well-executed. The Moonstone is locked away in a room with three guards, yet it still goes missing. The mystery of how the theft was accomplished and who the thief is keeps the reader engaged and guessing until the very end.
Another strength of the novel is its commentary on British colonialism and cultural appropriation. The Moonstone was originally stolen from India and brought to Britain, and the novel explores the consequences of this theft and the attitudes of the British towards India and its people. The novel also features a number of Indian characters, who are portrayed sympathetically and with nuance.
One of the criticisms of the novel is that it can be slow-paced at times, particularly in the second part when the investigation is dragging. However, the payoff in the final part of the novel is worth the wait, and the slower parts of the story allow for more character development and exploration of the novel’s themes.
The Moonstone is a well-crafted and engaging locked-room mystery novel that has stood the test of time. The intricate plot, well-drawn characters, and social commentary make this a novel that is not only entertaining but also thought-provoking. If you’re a fan of the mystery genre or Victorian-era literature, The Moonstone is definitely a book worth reading.