The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins, 1868

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The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins is a 19th-century British epistolary novel. It is an early example of the modern detective novel and established many of the ground rules of the modern genre. The story was serialized in Charles Dickens’s magazine All the Year Round. Collins adapted The Moonstone for the stage in 1877.

The Moonstone of the title is a diamond (not to be confused with the semi-precious moonstone gem). It has gained its name from its association with the Hindu god of the Moon, Chandra. It is protected by three hereditary guardians on the orders of Vishnu, and waxes and wanes in brilliance along with the light of the Moon.

Rachel Verinder, a young English woman, inherits a large Indian diamond on her eighteenth birthday. It is a legacy from her uncle, a corrupt British army officer who served in India. The diamond is of great religious significance and extremely valuable, and three Hindu priests have dedicated their lives to recovering it. The story incorporates elements of the legendary origins of the Hope Diamond (or perhaps the Orloff Diamond or the Koh-i-Noor diamond). Rachel's eighteenth birthday is celebrated with a large party at which the guests include her cousin Franklin Blake. She wears the Moonstone on her dress that evening for all to see, including some Indian jugglers who have called at the house. Later that night the diamond is stolen from Rachel's bedroom, and a period of turmoil, unhappiness, misunderstandings and ill luck ensues. Told by a series of narratives from some of the main characters, the complex plot traces the subsequent efforts to explain the theft, identify the thief, trace the stone and recover it.


Characters Rachel Verinder, Gabriel Betteredge, Lady Verinder, Colonel Herncastle, Penelope Betteredge
Adaptations The Moonstone (1934), The Moonstone (1974), The Moonstone (1909), The Moonstone (1959)
Genres Novel, Mystery, Detective fiction, Epistolary novel, Crime Fiction, Horror fiction, Supernatural fiction
Text The Moonstone at Wikisource