Book Review: “Death Comes to Pemberley”

Death Comes to Pemberley, P.D. James
originally published: December 2011
finished reading: 7 January 2012
cost: $25.95 (borrowed from friend)

P.D. James loves Austen. I’ve read a lot of fan-fiction and they all seem to love the characters, but James has an affinity for Austen herself that many of the other authors lack. This book feels closer to Jane Austen’s own style of writing than any other I’ve read (lots of description, very little dialogue). James has preserved the feel of the story while still taking it in a new direction. I will admit to being a bit of a purist and don’t like the jarring feeling when beloved characters do something I feel is out of character (one fan-fic book had Elizabeth calling Darcy “Fitzie”; even now it leaves a bad taste in my mouth).

The story itself isn’t much of a mystery. Yes there is a murder (you expected one) and of course there are intrigues, drunken routs, and daughters being meddled with. James deals with them all in the Edwardian style – gently. I appreciate that she delves a little more deeply into the interior lives of the characters. There are explanations of their actions in the characters’ own words – passages where both Elizabeth and Darcy think about their past behavior and how they feel about it now (shame, embarrassment, etc.). Austen herself never goes into these details (it would be unseemly), but James hits them on the head, explaining things to her 21st century audience that would have been clear to Austen’s audience.

There are also surprise appearances from other Austen characters (the Elliots of Persuasion and the Knightleys of Emma). These interludes diverted me excessively.

I sped through this lovely mash note in a day and wished it was just a little longer. I am intrigued and will search out other P.D. James novels and I’m hopeful they are as good as this one. I’m also left hoping that she turns her eye back to Austen and writes another sequel.

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