The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I've never been that interested in this book or anything by Wilkie Collins for that matter. Collins had that stigma (for me) of having written "classics" and "the first detective novel." Which just killed any interest I'd ever have had because classics and "first ever" books are musty, boring, and stale, right?
I know that isn't true, but I still have a hard time shaking that idea.
However, when B.J. Harrison, narrator extraordinaire of The Classic Tales Podcast offered the first five hours of this book as a free sample I couldn't resist. I soon gave in and ordered the entire books. I was hooked in just a few chapters.
I really didn't expect Gabriel Betteredge, the first narrator, to be so funny. He spends his spare time reading and rereading Robinson Crusoe which is his ultimate guide to any tricky decision he must make.
The second narrator is equally hilarious, a maiden aunt whose dedication to the Christian cause is such that she spends a considerable amount of time hiding religious tracts in people's homes to trick them into reading them. I actually laughed out loud at some of the tract names. Now that I think of it, I knew that Collins and Charles Dickens were good friends and I suppose I should have expected a good sense of the ridiculous.
Not every narrator is humorous but the characterization is strong for everyone. Rachel Verinder's outburst to Franklin Blake toward the end of the book made me applaud her strong common sense while I sympathized with her situation. I was moved to pity by Ezra Jennings' plight and delighted in Sergeant Cuff's penchant for roses.
Harrison's reading emphasized humor without being over the top and pointed out the pathos without being maudlin. His reading was the key to my thorough enjoyment of this Victorian tale complete with a family feud, a cursed diamond, three untrustworthy Indian jugglers, and a small boy nicknamed Gooseberry.
The ending was of its time and incredible by today's standards, but I was on tenterhooks as each revelation was made. In fact, I put off listening to a brand new book in a series I love so that I could get to the end of this mystery.
Harrison is offering the entire book for $5 which is an amazing bargain. I'm sure how long that offer will stand so if you're interested check out the link above.