Alongside Edgar Allan Poe in America, Britain’s Wilkie Collins stands as the inventor of the modern detective story. The Moonstone introduces all the ingredients: a homey, English country setting, and a colorfully exotic background in colonial India; the theft of a fabulous diamond from the lovely heroine; a bloody murder and a tragic suicide; a poor hero in love with the heroine but suspected of the crime, who can’t remember anything about the night the jewel was stolen; assorted friends, relatives, servants, a lawyer, a doctor, a sea captain-suspects, all; and, most essentially, a bumbling local policeman and a brilliant if eccentric London detective. Adding spice to the recipe are unexpected twists, a bit of dark satire, a dash of social comment, and an unusual but effective narrative structure-eleven different voices relate parts of the tale, each revealing as much about himself (and, in one case, herself) as about the mystery of the missing Moonstone.

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