The Moonstone

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The Moonstone diamond, stolen by John Herncastle at the fall of Seringapatan, India, in 1799 and bequeathed to his niece, Rachel Verinder, gives the novel its title. Its history, value, and disappearance prompt much of the work’s action.

When Franklin Blake, Rachel’s distant cousin, brings the moonstone to her for her birthday, it disappears. The list of suspects includes Franklin, Rachel herself, who obstructs the investigation to shield Franklin, and a trio of Indians sworn to return the stone to its sacred setting.

Rachel’s engagement to Godfrey Ablewhite ends abruptly when his gold-digging motives surface. Sergeant Cuff helps expose Ablewhite as an opportunist. Cuff also traces the diamond to a pawnbroker, a murdered sailor (Ablewhite in disguise), and clears the Hindus; but he does not recover the gem.

Collins gradually reveals, through a succession of narrators, that Rachel saw Franklin take the gem while he was sedated. Franklin gave it to Ablewhite to hold, and forgot he had done so once he awoke. Years later, once Franklin and Rachel have been married for some time, a traveler reports having seen the gem in the forehead of an Indian idol.

Collins not only fashioned the first highly wrought detective novel but also developed a prototypical figure in Sergeant Cuff, whose passion for growing roses gives him the touch of eccentricity characteristic of many of the most famous fictional detectives. Collins’...

(The entire section is 572 words.)