Have you ever read The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins? It is often regarded as the first detective novel in English, and it was published in 1868. The image above is an 1874 illustration from the book. There are several narrators of the plot, so you get many points of view and get to know some interesting characters. My favourite is the servant Gabriel Betteredge who adores Robinson Crusoe and re-reads it constantly. The novel was praised by Dorothy L. Sayers as “probably the very finest detective story ever written”.
Last year the BBC did a 5-part TV adaptation, starring Joshua Silver and Terenia Edwards. Wilkie Collins (1824-1889) was an intriguing man and a good friend of Charles Dickens. When he died, he shocked the Victorian world by dividing his estate between his two mistresses. I can recommend The Secret Life of Wilkie Collins by William M. Clarke. There’s also a biography of Wilkie Collins by Peter Ackroyd and one by Andrew Lycett – I have not read those, but both are good biographers.
Or you might like to try his other famous novel The Woman in White. It caused some shock in Victorian readers because the heroine, Marian Halcombe is ugly – Victorians expected their leading ladies in novels to be beautiful, and they felt truly affronted to be given an ugly heroine.
Do you love a good detective novel? Tell me by leaving a comment area below.
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