The Moonstone Mystery on PBS

Christina Knight | December 5, 2019

Cast of The Moonstone. Top row: Godfrey Ablewhite (Stewart Clarke), Mr. Murthwaite (Guy Henry), Penelope (Misa Cole), Gabriel Betteredge (Leo Wringer), Superintendent Seegrave (Mike Wozniak), Ezra Jennings (Trevor Fox), Mr. Briff (David Calder), Dr .Candy (Jeremy Swift), Rosanna Spearman (Jane Mcgrath), Sergeant Cuff (John Thomson) Seated: Miss Clack (Sarah Hadland), Franklin Blake (Joshua Silver), Rachel Verinder (Terenia Edwards), Lady Verinder (Sophie Ward). On Floor: Guridian (Jag Sanghera).

Top row: Godfrey Ablewhite (Stewart Clarke), Mr. Murthwaite (Guy Henry), Penelope (Misa Cole), Gabriel Betteredge (Leo Wringer), Superintendent Seegrave (Mike Wozniak), Ezra Jennings (Trevor Fox), Mr. Briff (David Calder), Dr .Candy (Jeremy Swift), Rosanna Spearman (Jane Mcgrath), Sergeant Cuff (John Thomson). Seated: Miss Clack (Sarah Hadland), Franklin Blake (Joshua Silver), Rachel Verinder (Terenia Edwards), Lady Verinder (Sophie Ward). On Floor: Guridian (Jag Sanghera).

The Moonstone is a rollicking who-dunnit, Victorian-style: everything within the bounds of English propriety, of course. The series is a bit more frenetic than other British dramas on PBS, as it roils with foiled marriage proposals, flashbacks, snake-bearing traveling entertainers (or are they Brahmin assassins?), an incompetent, but confident, police superintendent, and the eccentric, but highly observant, detective.

The British miniseries is an adaptation of the very first detective novel in England, written by the icon of the Victorian sensational novel: Wilkie Collins. His first installment mystery, full of cliffhangers, was The Woman in White (1860, also a PBS miniseries), in which the specter of insanity, stolen identity and “the mad house” loom darkly. Collins sets a cursed jewel in the center of The Moonstone, which was published in 1868 and set the standard for detective tales to follow, including the trope of the professional detective who outwits the local police in the skill of sleuthing (Sherlock Holmes, I presume?).

Guardian (Jaag Sanghera) and Rachel Verinder (Terenia Edwards) in foreground, on her birthday night.

Guardian (Jaag Sanghera) and Rachel Verinder (Terenia Edwards) in foreground, on her birthday night.

The Moonstone’s twists and turns are set in motion when a John Herncastle bequeaths an enormous diamond as a birthday present to his 18-year-old niece, Rachel Verinder. Hardly a fair gift, the diamond should never have shone its carats in England. Uncle committed sacrilege when he stole it from a deity sculpture in an Indian temple. Guardians of the jewel are in hot pursuit. This criminal backstory is told in the series’ opening moments via quaint paper-cut figures and a narrator.

Franklin Blake (Joshua Silver) is at the center of The Moonstone mystery.

Franklin Blake (Joshua Silver) is at the center of The Moonstone mystery.


A central figure among the ensemble cast is Franklin Blake, the young man who delivers the diamond to Rachel at her manor house. The two share a keen sparkle for one another, but the romance goes south when the gift vanishes overnight from her bedroom, and it’s clear his financial life is a mess. Everyone from the aristocrats to the servants who admired her diamond at her birthday party are suspects, as are three Indian men who have been seen around the manor.

The person summoned to solve the theft is Sergeant Cuff, a famous detective from London who would prefer to investigate how to grow the perfect rose garden.

Cuff has a disarming air and conducts his investigation largely through casual conversations with members of the Verinder household and other relations. The family would prefer not to draw attention to the now twice-stolen diamond and eventually dismisses him.

A year later, Cuff is drawn back into the investigation at Franklin Blake’s urging, who believes that resolving the whereabouts of the diamond will win him back Rachel’s heart.

The five episodes of The Moonstone are available to binge watch for members of THIRTEEN. THIRTEEN Passport is the member benefit that includes dramas exclusive to streaming, including on the THIRTEEN Explore app. Join now to watch British dramas on demand, such as The Moonstone, The Woman in White, Lark Rise to Candleford, Sherlock, DCI Banks and much more.