I was recently persuaded to re-read The Moonstone by a whole bunch of people on Twitter. They were participating in a read-a-long hosted by Lit Nerd and I kept wanting to join in! So I picked up my old and very battered copy (it no longer has a front or back cover!) on a cold November evening.
The Moonstone is the first real detective novel ever written, and indeed you can see elements of this story in many detective mysteries since; twists, red herrings, cliff hangers and seemingly impossible, unexplainable events. The writing is captivating, with a plot that digs deeper and deeper into mystery.
The story is told by a number of narrators; the endearing Gabriel Betteredge being my personal favourite. With his earnest, talkative manner, it’s hard to dislike him. Although rather sexist, he is a caring grandad figure and his descriptions bring a human touch to the story. Through him we get to know the main characters, and learn to care for them, as he does. One quirk that I particularly love about him is his strange devotion to his old copy of Robinson Crusoe, something which all booklovers will appreciate!
The mystery revolves around the Moonstone which has been left to Rachel Verinder by her late uncle. It is given to her on her eighteenth birthday and goes missing after only a few hours. The Moonstone seems to bring bad luck to all who are associated with it, and in that few hours, its evil has already began its work. Everyone’s lives turn upside down – some characters won’t even make it to the end of the book alive.
In desperation, a renowned detective from London is called for. The chapters that follow are some of my favourites in the book. Sergeant Cuff brings some humour to the pages, especially when arguing with the gardener about the proper way to grow roses, a passion of his. He brings the story forward at a nice pace with his observations and helps the reader (and Betteredge) to feel the detective fever. I only wish there were more of him in the book!
Soon the mystery travels from Betteredge’s trusty hands to London, where the irritating but hilarious Miss Clack briefly takes over the storytelling. After this, the writing becomes less laugh-out-loud and much more business like. I was very glad towards the end of the book, when we return to the country, with Betteredge awaiting us with a copy of Robinson Crusoe on his lap, eager to take on the mystery and solve it once and for all!
When the mystery is finally solved, it is gloriously far fetched and proved with absurd ‘scientific’ experiments – in my mind a perfect ending!
Settle down with your own copy of The Moonstone on a gloomy winters night – click on the picture below!