The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins.
Lord bless us! it was a diamond! As large, or nearly, as a plover's egg! The light that streamed from it was like the light of the harvest moon. When you looked down into the stone, you looked into a yellow deep that drew your eyes into it so that they saw nothing else. It seemed unfathomable; this jewel, that you could hold between your finger and thumb, seemed as the heavens themselves. We set it in the sun, and shut out the light out of the room, and it shone awfully out of the depths of its own brightness, with a moony gleam, in the dark.
The Moonstone was my first bookish surprise of 2014 (which bodes well - it's also only the second book I've read so far this year). I never thought I would hate it, and I didn't dread it the way I dread the fifteen or so books I sincerely regret putting on my Classics Club list, but I thought at best I might "quite like it". But no, I loved it very much - it was the only book I read on Saturday and made for a very fun readathon.
It tells the story of the missing moonstone, a cursed diamond stolen from a shrine in India to the Hindu god of the moon. It is left to Rachel Verinder by her uncle, Colonel Herncastle, who stole it during the Siege of Seringapatam. Three Hindu priests had been trying to recover it ever since, and by leaving it to Rachel he (deliberately) exposes her to the curse, and to the priests who will, it is said, stop at nothing to retrieve it. She is given the diamond on the night of her eighteenth birthday, and it is stolen the same day. But who by, and why? - there is the mystery!
I'll end with one of these descriptions, that of the Shivering Sand:
The last of the evening light was fading away; and over all the desolate place there hung a still and awful calm. The heave of the main ocean on the great sandbank out in the bay, was a heave that made no sound. The inner sea lay lost and dim, without a breath of wind to stir it. Patches of nasty ooze floated, yellow-white, on the dead surface of the water. Scum and slime shone faintly in certain places, where the last of the light still caught them on the two great spits of rock jutting out, north and south, into the sea. It was now the time of the turn of the tide: and even as I stood there waiting, the broad brown face of the quicksand began to dimple and quiver—the only moving thing in all the horrid place.