The Moonstone: I Love You, Wilkie Collins

For My Life of Crime…Reading, I’m reading every novel on HRF Keating’s list in Crime and Mystery: The 100 Best Books. I love The Moonstone. If you are a fan of nineteenth-century novels with framing devices, like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Collins’ narrative will appeal to you. As Keating says, the novel is “full of splendid character studies.” More than that, it is a rollicking good time. A yellow diamond is stolen from an Indian temple, secretly transported to England, then vindictively willed to an innocent young woman…and that’s just the set-up for the novel’s central plot. Let me just channel Stefan from Saturday Night Live for a second. This book has everything. Briefly, a list of things in the first 300 pages:

  • The cursed yellow diamond of the title
  • Brahmin priests posing as jugglers in the English countryside
  • A heroine meant to be played by Katharine Hepburn
  • Quicksand
  • A detective obsessed with growing roses
  • Jokes about subjectivity in German philosophy
  • Elderly men who read Robinson Crusoe when in crisis
  • Unrequited lesbian love triangles
  • And Miss Drusilla Clack, who puts religious tracts in other peoples’ bathrooms.*

If that list doesn’t make you want to read a book, I don’t know what will!



*PS: I found this section hilarious. My grandmother was something of a Miss Clack, except she preferred to distribute her tracts with the Halloween candy.

My Life of Crime….Reading

I’m beginning a life of crime…reading. Don’t be alarmed, no blog readers will be harmed in the course of this experiment!

The truth is that I love blogs and non-fiction books about real people embarking on neat and thought-provoking projects. I liked reading Gretchen Rubin’s tips for increased happiness or laughing at AJ Jacobs’ slogging through the Encyclopedia Britannica. I even read Living Oprah. But rather than read about other folks’ projects, I thought it would be fun to dive in and have one of my own. So, I’m undertaking a project tailored to my fascination with mysteries and classic whodunits. For the rest of 2015, I’m going to read my way through 100 mystery and crime novels and blog about them here.

HRF Keating’s 1987 book, Crime and Mystery: The 100 Best Books will be my guide. If you haven’t heard of Keating (1926-2011), he was the award-winning author of the Inspector Ghote novels and president of the Detection Club. The Guardian described him as a scholar with “an awesome reputation as an expert on the genre.” My hope is that this project–like the best literature surveys and themed courses–will help me understand how mysteries grew and developed as a genre. You can find a list of all 100 books in chronological order here. Plus, Keating had an amazing beard.

The great thing about Keating’s list is that it begins with many nineteenth-century books that are widely available, starting with Edgar Allan Poe and Wilkie Collins. I’m already looking forward to reading Frances Iles and Patricia Highsmith (whose books became Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion and Strangers on a Train, respectively) for the first time. And Mary Roberts Rinehart!

My plan is to begin with The Moonstone, since I have an unread personal copy, while I track down Poe. If you’d like to join me, Collins’ book is available at Project Gutenberg.