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T. S. Eliot famously described The Moonstone as the first, the longest and the best of modern English detective novels, but as Sandra Kemp discusses in her Introduction, it offers many other facets, which reveal Collins's sensibilities as untypical of his era. His women and servants--like the luckless Rosanna--are trated as individuals capable of anger and passion. He unmasks a restrictive society in his depiction of sexual and imperial domination. Finally through his manipulation of the narrative itself, facts, identities and memory become question marks. With constantly shifting perspectives, the marvellously intricate mystery of the Moonstone unfolds.
"When you looked down into the stone, you looked into a yellow deep that drew your eyes into it so that they saw nothing else."
The Moonstone, a yellow diamond looted from an Indian temple and believed to bring bad luck to its owner, is bequeathed to Rachel Verinder on her eighteenth birthday. That very night the priceless stone is stolen again and when Sergeant Cuff is brought in to investigate the crime, he soon realizes that no one in Rachels household is above suspicion. Hailed by T. S. Eliot as "the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels," The Moonstone is a marvellously taut and intricate tale of mystery, in which facts and memory can prove treacherous and not everyone is as they first appear.
Sandra Kemps introduction examines The Moonstone as a work of Victorian sensation fiction and an early example of the detective genre, and discusses the technique of multiple narrators, the role of opium, and Collinss sources and autobiographical references.
Wilkie (William) Collins (1824-89) was a hugely successful and popular crime, mystery and suspense writer. He wrote the first full-length detective novels in English and set a mould for the genre as shown in The Moonstone and "The Woman in White."
Sandra Kemp has edited Virginia Woolf's short stories and Rudyard Kipling's Debits and Credits for Penguin Classics.
"The first and greatest of English detective novels."
--T. S. Eliot