Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Premature Book Review: The Moonstone

Wilkie Collins is a new one to me. I saw a mention on Twitter, and decided (as I was through with a book) to give him a shot. I found The Moonstone for the Kindle, either free or very cheap.

So far, the book is similar in story to a Conan-Doyle or Sax Rohmer novel. A military man in India comes across a fabled jewel, the Moonstone, which is protected by three priests at all times and is told to carry a curse. Colonel Herncastle, the man in question, kills the three priests (this is alluded to) and comes to possess the diamond. After his death, there is an inquiry about the diamond, which has disappeared. Those involved have been charged with writing out their statements as narratives. This makes up the bulk of the text.

I am very early in this book, and it is quite enjoyable. Collins has an interesting style, and is quite humorous. The first narrator, Gabriel Betteredge, is obsessed with Robinson Crusoe, a note that is brought up at times for comedic effect.

Wikipedia (for what that's worth) states that this is the first English language detective novel, being published in 1868 (despite the fact that it was a serialized story in Charles Dickens' magazine All the Year Round). The first English language detective story is generally considered to be The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Poe, 1841.

I see no reason why I will not complete this one. Something drastic will have to happen for me to give up on it. It is highly readable and cleverly constructed.

5 comments:

Tommy Salami said...

I look forward to your review. All I remember is Harlan Ellison ranting about how awful it was. But he's Harlan Ellison. He didn't exactly dissect it like Mark Twain did to Fenimore Cooper.

Tenebrous Kate said...

OK, Darius--I've had just about ENOUGH of you living inside my brain. I just finished reading this book this AM during my commute, on a Kindle, even...!

It's a really fun read, and I dug it thoroughly. Looking forward to reading your thoughts in this impromptu book club meeting :)

Pee Ess: If you've read Huysman's "La-Bas" over the past month or so, I'm going to be SERIOUSLY freaked out, because that's what I just started in on.

Darius Whiteplume said...

@TS - I am appropriately unread enough to not know Harlan Ellison. Maybe I'll keep it that way? I find Collins more enjoyable than Rohmer, and less stuffy than Conan-Doyle (though to be fair, I have never given Sherlock Holmes a fair chance). If nothing else, he's made me want to read "Robinson Crusoe" which I have somehow avoided in my 40 years.

@TK - I think you were the Tweeter in question. Now that I think of it, the Tweet had "scarlet prose" in it, which sounds rather Imperial ;-)

I think I have "La Bas" on my wish list (pre-Kindle). I think I got off the wacky Euro track after "The Sufferings of Prince Sternenhoch: A Grotesque Tale of Horror" either because I got recalled by Japanese fiction, or something I wanted to read came out. That was almost 18mos ago, and my memory fails me...

Last Kindle I read, which I have not reviewed, was "The Vengeful Virgin" by Gil Brewer (Hard Case Crime). I think it is $2.59 on Kindle now. Not bad. A little run-of-the-mill. Semi-saucy.

dfordoom said...

Wilkie Collins is one of my favourite writers. I especially like The Haunted Hotel - another mystery tale but with gothic elements added as well. Total fun.

Darius Whiteplume said...

I'll have to try that one sometime. Danke!

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