The Moonstone (1868) by Wilkie Collins is another example among the first detective novels. It was published in instalments (= a puntate) in Charles Dickens’ magazine All the Year Round.
The story starts at Rachel Verinder’s eighteenth birthday party. Rachel receives a diamond, the Moonstone, as a gift (= dono) from her uncle. She does not know that precious stone was stolen and that his uncles was a corrupt English army officer who served (= prestò servizio) in India. The diamond has a great religious and three Hindus have devoted their lives to recover the precious stones. During the party Rachel wears the diamond and among the guests there are Franklin Blake – whom she loves – and Godfrey Ablewhite, her cousin who proposes to her. Both of them will be very important in the development (= sviluppo) of the story. At night, the diamond is stolen and a sad and unlucky period starts for the Verinders. To solve the case that then reveals to be more intricate than it was thought (= per risolvere il caso, che si rivela più intricato di quanto si potesse pensare), is Sergeant Cuff, a famous, particular detective with a passion for roses.
The book was inspired by the Indian legends about Gods with cursed (= maledette) precious stones on their statues. The Moonstone was in fact set in the forehead (= fronte) of a sacred statue of the god at Somnath, and later at Benares and it was said to be protected by hereditary guardians on the orders of Vishnu.
The book is widely regarded as the precursor of the modern mystery and suspense novels. T. S. Eliot called it “the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels.. in a genre invented by Collins and not by Poe”. Probably the literary sources (= fonti) which influenced the writing of the novel were Sarah Burney’s The Hermitage (1839) and Notting Hill Mystery (1862-63) by Charles Felix, pseudonym of Charles Warren Adams. In The Moonstone Collins here uses the “multi-narration” method: the story is told by the narratives of the main characters which build the plot (= costruiscobo la trama) and give the story humour and pathos. Another aspect which was quite original for the period is the depiction of opium addiction, a problem Collins knew personally
As to the historical references, in the Prologue W. Collins explains that the action takes place in the years 1848-49, at the time of the second Anglo-Sikh War in India, which established British control. An important English victory at Seringapatam marked the beginning of the empire of the East India Company.
The great diamond refers to two very famous stones: the Russian diamond “Orloff” in the Russian Imperial Sceptre and the “Koh-i-Noor”, the Persian “mountain of light”, both stolen by Europeans.
The story says that the Sikh Maharajah Duleep Singh gave the Koh-i-Noor diamond to Queen Victoria.