Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James

 “It was generally agreed by the female residents of Meryton that Mr. and Mrs. Bennet of Longbourn had been fortunate in the disposal in marriage of four of their five daughters.”

Six years after the fortunate marriages of Jane & Lizzie Bennet, younger sister Lydia arrives in a flurry at the doors of Pemberley, exclaiming “Wickham’s dead. Denny has shot him!” And with that, we are swept back into the world of Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice.

As soon as I heard about this book I knew I had to read it. I couldn’t explain why. I typically don’t like mystery novels. I am not much of a Jane Austen fan. Sequels written years later by different authors generally seem in bad taste. And yet, I was drawn to it like to a train wreck. All I could think was while it might be bad – and even very bad – it was fascinating, and had so much potential. This was not to be another Austen romance. The Darcy’s were dealing with a murder.

It was fun, to a certain degree. James recreated the world exceptionally well, and many of the characters too. She wrote Elizabeth very well, but I was disappointed at the choice to turn her into a sensible married lady. Lydia was spot on and just as frustrating as in the original. Darcy was sadly less convincing. His dialogue felt forced. His inner monologue even moreso.

What was fun, then? Revisiting the characters. The letter of “condolence” from Mr. Collins. A token appearance from Lady Catherine de Bourgh, with her offering:

“I have never approved of protracted dying. It is an affectation in the aristocracy; in the lower classes it is merely an excuse for avoiding work.”

The history buff in me loved the details of the investigation – or lack thereof – as conducted in 1803. The court proceedings were enlightening, and the musings of Darcy and Henry Alveston (Georgiana Darcy’s dashing young beau) on necessary judicial reforms, amusing.

As for an overall verdict: If you are a mystery or Austen fan, by all means, you will almost definitely love it. If not, read it for fun. Don’t expect a lot more.

Hardcover: 304 pages

Publisher: Knopf Canada; First Edition edition (Dec 6 2011)

ISBN-10: 0307362035

ISBN-13: 978-0307362032

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