The Moonstone is one of my personal candidates for the title of best mystery novel ever written (other nominees include The Hound of the Baskervilles, Gaboriau’s Le Crime d’Orcival or J.D. Carr’s The Three Coffins among many, many others) and this review sums up what makes this book so great very well.
Believe it or not, it remained on my shelves for ten years before I actually got around to read it – I was negatively impressed by the length of the book as well as by his age; surely its only interest was of a historical kind. And then one day I finally opened it, read the first three pages and I was hooked. I couldn’t put it down and the only disappointment I felt when finally closing the book was that it was already over.
Pace Barzun, T.S. Eliot had every right to label this book « the […] greatest of English detective novels » (he also thought it was the first, but was wrong on this count as primogeniture belongs to Charles Felix’s obscure The Notting Hill Mystery) as everything about this book is perfect or near-perfect from the masterful construction to the equally wonderful characterization. It is also strikingly modern, absolutely not the period piece you might expect. One century and a half ago, the detective novel had already taken on most of its definitive shape and to see it emerge before one’s eyes is but one of the book’s many pleasures.
Now talking about it makes me feel like reading it again. A good way to start a new decade, isn’t it?