In P. D. James’ latest novel it’s 1803, six years after where Jane Austen ended Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth and Darcy are blissfully ensconced in Pemberley with their two young sons. As they prepare for the annual Autumn Ball, what could possibly happen to shatter their happiness? Of course, more drama from Elizabeth’s sister Lydia and her ne’re-do-well husband Wickham. Unfortunately neither of them have changed a bit and they wind up dragging Elizabeth and Darcy and the rest of the family into a scandalous murder investigation which winds up with Wickham being put on trial for the murder of his friend. The question is: As reprehensible as Wickham is, is he capable of cold blooded murder?
Whenever an author takes on a classic there is a bit of a risk at displeasing it’s legions of fans. While there are many different opinions regarding Death Comes to Pemberley, I have to say that I quite enjoyed it. P. D. James’ book is not only a murder mystery, but also an exploration of the personalities of two of the most beloved characters in English literature. Both have matured vastly, with Elizabeth taking her duties of wife, mother, and chatelaine of Pemberley quite seriously, and Darcy who while is still at times broody, also is determined to learn from his past mistakes. James also does not make the mistake of introducing a horde of new characters. While there are a few new faces, the reader is instead re-introduced to original ones such as Elizabeth’s sister Jane and her husband, and Darcy’s sister Georgiana. There are several comedic moments as well, especially when Elizabeth is making one of her patented ironic observations. Don’t expect Darcy to turn into Sherlock Holmes and solve the mystery. He and Elizabeth actually are more observers than anything else. I believe James captures the tone of Pride and Prejudice quite well, while satisfying those of us who have wondered wistfully “what happened after…”
Kim is the Assistant Head of Children’s Services
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