Set six years after Elizabeth and Darcy square off in “Pride and Prejudice,” P. D. James brings a new conflict to the couple’s lives. On the eve of their annual ball, Elizabeth’s estranged sister Lydia comes tearing up to Pemberley, screaming that her husband Wickham has been murdered. Murder? At Pemberley? To quote Lady Catherine de Bourgh, “Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?”
As a Jane Austen fan, I was set to enjoy the further adventures of Elizabeth and Darcy. After a promising beginning however, my interest flagged. Though I could not at the time tell you exactly why, after a bit of reflection I think it comes down to this: My love for the original work stems from Elizabeth’s fiery personality, her cutting wit, and of course, the budding romance between her and Fitzwilliam Darcy. In James’ story, Elizabeth is relegated to little more than scenery, and though we see much of Darcy, the goings on did not feel in keeping with his character as presented by Austen (proud and excruciatingly shy).
As a mystery novel, “Death Comes to Pemberley” is an enjoyable read. The plot twists and turns, somewhat predictably and at times very slowly, from the ghastly discovery of a body in Pemberley’s woods, to the trial of the accused killer, and the aftermath. But for me, the magic just didn’t translate.
“Death Comes to Pemberley” will appeal to mystery lovers, fans of historical fiction, and fans of Jane Austen (who should consider themselves forewarned).