Wilkie Collins wrote The Moonstone in 1868. It was an immediate success and it has been a best seller ever since. It tells the story of the Moonstone, a valuable Indian diamond, which is given to Rachel Verinder on her 18<sup>th</sup> birthday. She wears it to her party but, later that night, it is stolen from her room. The story focuses on trying to identify the thief and recover the diamond. It is told through the letters of various characters from different points of view.

The story takes place in a large country house where everybody is a potential suspect with a motive and an opportunity. There is a detective who analyses the clues and a surprising twist at the end which surprises everyone.

The Moonstone is considered the first real detective story but at the time the genre was known as ‘sensation fiction’. It has a very complex plot and introduces various elements which are still used today in detective fiction. The most famous is probably the ‘red herring’ or false clue, which tries to trick and confuse the reader.

Written 150 years ago it is as modern as many detective stories we read and see on TV today.


Illustration by Giulio Peranzoni, taken from The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, Reading and Training, Step 4 (B2.1)