Death Comes To Pemberley by P. D. James

What does one write for their first post? I think i will start with the book i read for my best friend, Death Comes To Pemberley by P. D. James.

For Christmas last year, my best friend was given the book, Death Comes To Pemberley. We both love Jane Austen and anything Jane Austen related, however she was hesitant to read it in case it ruined the reputation of Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice. I offered to read it for her and as she is my best friend, i would know if she would love it or hate it.

I read it and decided to give her a book review on HeyTell, an iPhone app. I didn’t realise though that you can only record small messages and then after two messages it won’t let you record anymore because i had filled her inbox (great). I tend to ramble so after about a gazillion HeyTells and only being half way through my review i thought, maybe i should dedicate my first post to her. So best friend, this is for you.


The year is 1803, and Darcy and Elizabeth have been married for six years. There are now two handsome and healthy sons in the Pemberley nursery, Elizabeth’s beloved sister Jane and her husband, Bingley, live within seventeen miles, the ordered and secure life of Pemberley seems unassailable, and Elizabeth’s happiness in her marriage is complete. But their peace is threatened and old sins and misunderstandings are rekindled on the eve of the annual autumn ball. The Darcys and their guests are preparing to retire for the night when a chaise appears, rocking down the path from Pemberley’s wild woodland, and as it pulls up, Lydia Wickham, an uninvited guest, tumbles out, screaming that her husband has been murdered.

In a pitch-perfect recreation of the world of Pride and Prejudice, P.D. James elegantly fuses her lifelong passion for the work of Jane Austen with her talent for writing detective fiction. She weaves a compelling story, combining a sensitive insight into the happy but threatened marriage of the Darcys and the excitement and suspense of a brilliantly crafted detective story. DEATH COMES TO PEMBERLEY enshrines the qualities her readers have come to expect: psychological and emotional richness of characterisation, vivid evocation of place, and a credible and superbly structured plot, in a powerful and distinguished work of fiction.

My Perspective

If you have never read Pride and Prejudice, or any Jane Austen novel for that matter, you would find this book a classic ‘Whodunit?’ crime novel. Reading it from this perspective the first half of the book was really quite interesting, taking you on twists and turns, guessing and second guessing who the murderer was. However the second half of the book started to become, how do i put it? “Days of Our Lives”. The story becomes more and more dramatic and even a bit ridiculous with explanations of situations similar of that to a soap opera e.g. long lost twins are reunited and one of them is actually the father of the child of the milkmaid who he had an affair with who is actually his cousin and next in line for the throne (that’s not actually what happens in the book but you get my drift). So if that’s your cup of tea, i am sure you will love it.

If you are an avid Jane Austen fan like my best friend and i, and you practically know Pride and Prejudice off by heart, then i think you might throw this book down in disgust crying “Sacrilege!”. The beginning starts off well enough, reuniting with your favourite characters and learning what they have been up to in the past six years (according to the new author). The character of Elizabeth is quite familiar and true to Jane Austen however i found as i read more that this was probably only because Pride and Prejudice was mainly written from Elizabeth’s point of view so the author had plenty of depth to write from. However the other characters, such as Mr Darcy, the author had to build upon their characters and i feel that the way she portrays Mr Darcy is quite weak. To me, Mr Darcy is a very strong character. Yes, he has feelings and moments of weakness but in the book i start to find him quite boring and wimpy, constantly doubting himself. I’m not sure if this was the angle the author was going for, to see a new side of Mr Darcy and how Elizabeth is his strength etc. but if that is so, i don’t think it was done very well. I think the blurb, “DEATH COMES TO PEMBERLEY enshrines the qualities her readers have come to expect: psychological and emotional richness of characterisation” is a bit exaggerated. If you aren’t offended by the author’s portrayal of Jane Austen’s characters, then by the end you probably will be. As i said above, the way it starts to unfold is worse than Days of Our Lives.

I think subconsciously after not being happy with some of the portrayals of the different characters i started reading the book from the perspective of it being just another crime novel and i just knew the characters and their histories extremely well. And from that point of view i enjoyed it. Except for the last part of the book. Obviously there is nothing wrong with soap operas if that’s what you like or if that was the intent of the book, “Pride and Prejudice: The Soap Opera”. The thing is, i don’t think that is was what it was meant to be and not at all what you expect from the first half of the book (especially after the description of the novel from the blurb – “a credible and superbly structured plot, in a powerful and distinguished work of fiction”).

So best friend, to be honest i think you would be one of those throwing this book down in disgust crying “Sacrilege!”. For others out there, you might be the same or the complete opposite.

“That chapter is definitely – closed” – Mr Darcy (Pride and Prejudice, 1940)