Wilkie Collins (photo from Wikipedia)
Having finished The Moonstone, I am now in a position to deliver my verdict on it. (This will probably upset my sister, who still absolutely hates this book.) I absolutely loved it! It had me gripped, trying to work out what happened from the clues given and I have to say, being surprised by the outcome. My curiosity kept pulling me back to it at any spare moment and I finished it with a big sigh of satisfaction. The characters are beautifully drawn and their individual voices come through their retelling of the parts of the story they were involved in. Yes, opium/laudanum does have a part to play, but as Wilkie Collins himself was an addict, the descriptions of the hallucinations suffered by one of the characters are very believable, as well as the effects of withdrawal. He obviously knew what he was talking about. All the elements of a good story are there - humour in the writing, themes of love, betrayal, suicide, murder, theft, deftly woven together, with the odd red herring and twists and turns thrown in for good measure.
The characters are a joy and deserve a few words to themselves. The hero and heroine are, of course, central to the plot, but for me it is some of the others who deserve to take centre stage. Gabriel Betteredge, the stout old family steward, who has overcome many difficult situations in his life by turning to his pipe and tobacco and reading Robinson Crusoe (and judging people accordingly if they haven't read the book), Miss Drusilla Clack, who obligingly leaves improving Christian tracts in people's houses in the vain hope that the reader may be saved, and Ezra Jennings, a mysterious man with a mysterious past. I mustn't forget Sergeant Cuff, a dogged and intelligent man who almost solves the mystery and is certainly one jump ahead of most, although he would rather be tending and growing roses and even Gooseberry, a boy with protruding eyes, who proves to be a worthy detective himself and who Sergeant Cuff thinks could go far in the police force. How could the reader fail to be delighted with this cast list?
I think that my sister read the book when she was too young - reading reviews on amazon, some other people had similar problems. However, I thoroughly enjoyed it and was totally engrossed, just as I was with The Woman in White (one of my all time favourites). For these two books, the stories and the amazing characters he brought to life, I say, "Bravo and thank you, Mr Collins!"