The Moonstone is essentially a Jane Austen novel crossed with a detective novel- the first ever detective novel! This was an unexpected delight.
The plot is very 19th century Britain: several years prior, an English military officer returned from his posting in India with dubious ownership over a very large diamond that had recently graced a Hindu temple. When the diamond appeared to be cursed, the officer gifted it to his estranged niece, Rachel, in an act that might be malevolent or generous, depending on your view of his intentions. The diamond is given to Rachel on her 18th birthday and that very night it disappears from her bedroom. A police detective, Sergeant Cuff, is called in to solve the mystery, and he uncovers clues including smudged paint and a missing and presumed dead housemaid. When Rachel refuses to cooperate with Cuff, her mother calls off the investigation and the mystery grows. On the Jane Austin-esque side, there are several romances and a marriage plot, as well as a number of delightfully rendered first person narrators (my favorites were the butler, Betteridge, who has a large heart but is not the brightest bulb; as well as Rachel’s spinster cousin, Drusilla Clack, who is a hilariously self-righteous observer- I literally laughed out loud at certain points in her narrative).
I really, really enjoyed this. I’m not sure if I’ll read it again the way I would a Jane Austen- I might read Drusilla Clack’s sections again, but now that I know the answer to the puzzle the novel is less compelling as a reread on the whole. I am, however, recommending it to both Jane Austen fans and mystery lovers- a nice broad group of friends and family to share it with.