Friday, January 13, 2012
Death Comes to Pemberly by P.D. James
A rare meeting of literary genius: P. D. James, long among the most admired mystery writers of our time, draws the characters of Jane Austen’s beloved novel Pride and Prejudice into a tale of murder and emotional mayhem.
It is 1803, six years since Elizabeth and Darcy embarked on their life together at Pemberley, Darcy’s magnificent estate. Their peaceful, orderly world seems almost unassailable. Elizabeth has found her footing as the chatelaine of the great house. They have two fine sons, Fitzwilliam and Charles. Elizabeth’s sister Jane and her husband, Bingley, live nearby; her father visits often; there is optimistic talk about the prospects of marriage for Darcy’s sister Georgiana. And preparations are under way for their much-anticipated annual autumn ball.
Then, on the eve of the ball, the patrician idyll is shattered. A coach careens up the drive carrying Lydia, Elizabeth’s disgraced sister, who with her husband, the very dubious Wickham, has been banned from Pemberley. She stumbles out of the carriage, hysterical, shrieking that Wickham has been murdered. With shocking suddenness, Pemberley is plunged into a frightening mystery. (synopsis from B&N.com)
Hardcover, Knopf Doubleday, 304 pages
I am a total sucker for any Austenesque book and I enjoyed reading this one. The setting is clever, Darcy and Elizabeth are getting ready to host the annual Lady Anne Ball and Lydia shows up in a carriage having a hsterical fit. Wickham and Captain Denny have had some sort of disagreement and left the carriage to go off in the woods, shots rang out and Lydia panicked and made the coachman take her to Pemberley ( uninvited of course). Darcy, col Fitzwilliam and some footmen head out and find Captain Denny now dead and Wickham claiming it was his fault. The ball gets cancelled and the Darcy's are thrown in the middle of a murder. Darcy finds himself in the unwanted position of having to provide assistance to keep his brother-in-law from hanging and having to try to find out what really happened.
The premise is clever and I liked the way little snippets of other Austen books are worked into this story, ie Wickham worked for a short time for Sir Walter Eliot ( Persuasion). Ms. James fills in a lot of the backstory of Pride and Prejudice from the Darcy side and that was fun. However, parts of the story plod along and the ending is a little contrived. That said, as an Austen fan I enjoyed reading it and overlooked the negatives. Wickham and Lydia are just as one would have expected them to be and it's nice to see what has happened to the P&P characters years later.