The Moonstone - Wilkie Collins Though the story doesn't really get moving until page 100, I enjoyed "The Moonstone." It's a bit reminiscent of "Rashomon," Akira Kurosawa's tale of rape and murder told from a variety of viewpoints. Not that we see a crime committed from different views but the novel is a series of "narratives" composed by both principals and a couple of peripheral characters, all of whom interpret the crime and what follows in a variety of ways.

Like many a 19th century novel, "The Moonstone" is a bit melodramatic and the motivations of some of the characters don't quite ring true to the late-20th century/21st century mind (particularly those of Rachel Verinder) but it's well paced and it explores how people act on what they perceive and what can ensue when you act before knowing all the facts.

I particularly liked the characters of Gabriel Betteredge and Sgt. Cuff. Betteredge is the irascible old servant/major domo of the Verinder family, who, nevertheless, possesses a sharp, sympathetic mind. His "narrative" takes up the first third of the book and, to my mind, is the best written and most entertaining.

Sgt. Cuff is the prototype of that type of fictional detective brought to its fullest expression in Sherlock Holmes 30 years after the publication of this novel. Cuff arrives at the Verinder manse and proceeds to assemble the clues in a dispassionate, impartial manner, coming to conclusion that no one is willing to accept. His conclusion is in error but that's only because he's denied knowledge of a crucial clue due to the untimely illness of a dinner guest. He's also much more likable and "human" than Holmes, who can, often, come off as entirely inhuman in his dispassion and impartiality. Cuff also reminds me of another English detective -- Christopher Foyle (as played by Michael Kitchen) from the PBS Mystery series, "Foyle's War." Both characters are passionately committed to solving crimes, regardless of where the evidence leads.

If you're interested, Kate Summerscale's "The Suspicions of Mister Whicher" retails the actual crime and detective that inspired Collins, and is also worth reading.