Multiple narrators tell the story, from their own vastly different perspectives, of the finding, theft, and recovery of a huge diamond called the Moonstone. It’s first stolen from an Indian temple (surprisingly, Collins actually intends the reader to sympathize with the people it was stolen from, rather than just saying that brown people don’t deserve diamonds) by some jackass Englishman, who then leaves it to his niece. The diamond is cursed, supposedly, but actually there are three very real men whose sole purpose in life is to track down the diamond and return it to the temple.
The stolen diamond is given to 18-year-old Rachel Verinder for her birthday, she puts it in her room, the whole house goes to bed, and in the morning the diamond is missing. Investigations and changing narratives ensue.
The different narrators are both the best and the worst part of the story. The changing perspectives (everyone saw something different the night the diamond disappeared and has a different theory about where it went) are interesting and make a good plot device, but good Lord could some of them stand to be edited a bit. The main narrator, Betteredge, is the head servant in the Verinder household, and as amusing as he is (extra points were given for random misogynist digressions), he does drone on a lot more than he should. Similarly, I got tired of Miss Clack almost immediately, and was very happy to finally be done with her section.
That’s the main problem with the book: it…moves…so…slowly. All the narrators have a lot to say, and only some of it is actually that important. Also, some people who I felt should have gotten to narrate the story were conspicuously left out. For instance, I wanted Rachel to get a chance to tell her side of the story – she was an insufferable bitch from page one, and I wanted to know how she would have justified her actions throughout the story.
However, considering that this is the first detective novel ever written, I’m willing to excuse its faults on the basis that it’s still pretty damn groundbreaking and exciting. It’s kind of a slog, but in the end, I was glad I read it.
Verdict: three out of five stars