Friday, December 16, 2011

Books I read in 2011 - Part 2

There is special joy reserved for "discovering" books; books which you wouldn't have normally read. These are the ones that you stumble across unexpectedly at a bookstore, at a second-hand book shop or are a recommendation from a friend you haven't spoken to in a long time.

The Goodreads suggestions section has become one such source of joy for me. I was searching for good novels in the detective genre when I came across "The Moonstone" by Wilkie Collins.

By the time I reached the end of the prologue, my nerves were already tingling as the build-up for a great mystery novel had been set.

The book is set in 19th century England, although the events in the prologue take place slightly earlier in the faraway exotic country of India. The prologue, ominously titled "The storming of Seringapatnam", describes how an officer of the East India Company comes in possession of a valuable diamond through thievery and murder right after the fall of Tipu Sultan of Mysore. The diamond, originally placed in a statue of the Moon God (hence the name) at Somnath, was sworn to be protected and restored by the priests of the temple at all costs.

Cut to half-a-century later when the said officer has been alienated by his family. To get back at them, the ailing old man leaves the diamond in his will to his niece on the day she turns eighteen. As it happens, the birthday party is also visited by three strange Indian gypsies. Later that night, the diamond mysteriously disappears. The theft, the search for it and the ultimate recovery of the diamond forms the rest of the novel.

Apart from the spine-chilling narrations at various parts in the book, the most interesting feature of the novel is the manner in which various chapters have been narrated by various characters in the book. The author's brilliance in eliciting humour and suspense from the narrators who speak in different styles is one of the highlights of the book.

Widely considered as one of the first mystery novels ever written, "The Moonstone" is a classic which you must read if you like reading Poe, Eliot and Doyle.


Neha said...

I have to get my hands on this book...

Shekhar said...

Oh yes. You will love it. The pace is definitely slightly slow, given the time in which it was written but I loved the craftsmanship of the author nonetheless.

Mish said...

I downloaded it on my kindle apps yesterday and its been an unputdownable since. There is something magical in the writings of the old writers of mystery. Its like old wine, gets better with age.
Btw don't u think the prologue has an uncanny similarity to the one of The Sign Of Four?
Oh! And I did not read your entire post (u had already recommended this book during our phone call) in case it contained any spoilers! Sorry :-)

Shekhar said...

Mish: Oh yes, the old masters knew very well how to brew a fine cocktail of mystery, romance and suspense.

And no, I usually never have spoilers in my reviews. You can read the rest of the post. :)