Wilkie Collins and The First Detective Novel

Jane Hu at Bookforum:

Like Collins’s earlier The Woman in White, The Moonstone employs a range of sensational plot twists and is narrated by an array of competing voices that variously draw on the reader’s sympathies and skepticism. But where The Woman in White relied on the investigative chops of an art teacher to unravel its mystery, The Moonstone introduces, for the first time in the British novel, the figure of the police investigator: Sergeant Cuff, the character who would set the standard for the new genre of the detective story. Archetypally whimsical and dandyish, Cuff sports a white cravat and a fondness for roses. “One of these days (please God) I shall retire from catching thieves,” he says early on, “and try my hand at growing roses.” Arriving on the scene of the crime, Cuff proceeds to meticulously reconstruct the diamond robbery. His search involves—what else—a close examination of everybody’s closets, “from her ladyship downwards.” No detail is too small to attract his attention, no aspect of domestic life too insignifi cant. Under the impersonal gaze of the detective, no one is beyond suspicion. At one point, Cuff even suspects Rachel of stealing the diamond—from herself. (She didn’t, but what a plot twist that would have been.)

more here.