The weather here in the UK is getting ever colder and the nights are drawing in ever earlier. The perfect time I always think to turn to those cosy crimes and period dramas. With that in mind I reached for a novel I was recently loaned by a friend Death Comes to Pemberley by P D James. I thought this could perhaps be an interesting blend of both cosy crime and period drama.
Death Comes to Pemberley joins Elizabeth and Darcy after several happy years of marriage. They have faced down much prejudice because of their union but now they are successfully settled at Pemberley with two healthy sons. As lady of the estate Elizabeth has taken on the mantle of arranging the Lady Anne Ball named in honour of Darcy’s mother who was famed for her wonderful balls. After weeks of organisation and preparation Elizabeth settles down for a pleasurable evening with family and close friends before the big night when disaster strikes. An unexpected coach comes hurtling down the back drive and as it comes to a screeching halt outside Pemberley a hysterical Lydia Wickham bursts forth exclaiming murder! A search is instigated of the woods where shots were heard for Wickham and his friend Captain Denny during which a shocking and bloody murder is indeed discovered. There isn’t a large amount of action in Death Comes to Pemberley but I still found myself completely gripped with all the detail and surprises.
The protagonists of Death Comes to Pemberley are the same as Pride and Prejudice Elizabeth and Darcy except now the two are married. I really enjoyed seeing how their relationship, which had barely begun at the end of the original novel, has developed. Elizabeth and Darcy still seem very much in love but also more importantly for me comfortable and happy together. And even when their world is shook by this terrible murder and the scandal it brings they still manage to stand strong together. Death Comes to Pemberley also sees the return of Jane and Bingley, Georgiana, Mrs Reynolds, Mr and Mrs Bennett, Lydia and Wickham, Mr and Mrs Gardiner and Colonel Fitzwilliam. Then there are the new characters of Captain Denny, Dr McFee, Sir Selwyn and many Pemberley servants. Altogether a very interesting mixture of the old and new.
Death Comes to Pemberley is in fact my first novel by the crime legend P D James and I loved it. I thought it was a really well-written and conceptualised novel. This is only the second Austen spin-off I have read my first being Pemberley by Emma Tennant and while I enjoyed that I thought Death Comes to Pemberley was head and shoulders above it. James has got the balance right between her own style and her homage to Austen’s style. I also felt the changes James made to the original character’s personalities and situations were also believable and realistic. As I mentioned above their isn’t a deal of action in this novel very much like Austen’s novels. The real centre of the story is still the characters, feelings, thoughts, and relationships. And how these can change during hard times. I would now really like to see how James’s usual novels compare to the style of this Austen tribute.
Death Comes to Pemberley is an excellent crime spin on a classic novel. I highly recommend to those who enjoy crime and period dramas. I look forward to the up-coming TV adaptation even more now.
Have you read this? Do you enjoy Austen spin-offs?