Thursday, 9 February 2012

Death Comes to Pemberley - P.D. James

Taking place six years after Elizabeth and Darcy are married, Death Comes to Pemberley is a tale of 'murder and emotional mayhem'.

On the eve of the Lady Anne's Ball (named after Darcy's late mother), a coach comes hurtling towards the doors of the magnificent and stately home of Pemberley. Practically falling from the carriage is a distraught and inconsolable Lydia screaming that her beloved Wickham has been murdered.

Darcy, Colonel Fitzwilliam and a young solicitor Alveston embark on a hurried journey to the woodlands where they believe they will find a body. However, upon arrival they find Wickham alive, but lamenting over a bloody corpse, namely that of Captain Denny, Wickham's long term friend. From this point onward, Darcy, Elizabeth and their household are caught up in scandal and intrigue. As the trial starts, it seems clear-cut but a final piece of evidence brings to light further questions.

Will the sacred halls of Darcy's beloved home, his wife and children ever be free from Wickham and his dubious character?

I'm a huge fan of PD James and have always admired her skill of creating a brilliant mystery. So, I'm feeling a little guilty of not loving this particular story as much as her Dalgleish novels. It is brilliantly written, but felt that retelling of the original story (in parts) was a little unwarranted. I think anyone wishing to read this would know the story - at least I hope so.

The plot is uncomplicated; the twist and the marrying up of seemingly random people and their tales are wrapped up in true James' style. I've read that some people think that Elizabeth is no longer the vibrant character that we meet in Pride & Prejudice. I don't completely agree with this; Elizabeth has a great respect for the staff of Pemberley especially Mrs. Reynolds. At the time of taking direction from the housekeeper, Elizabeth was in a state of shock. Also, let's not forget that Lizzy has been married for several years and over that time her once boisterous outlook would have changed as her and Darcy took on each other's traits - Darcy has always respected his staff, why would Elizabeth not do the same?

Overall, this is a good read. Although written superbly, don't expect a classic James thriller. I think she has paid homage to Austen in a very respectable way with a befitting 'sequel' that fans of both authors will not necessarily love, but certainly enjoy.

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