Sunday, December 18, 2011

Death Comes to Pemberley...

Death Comes to Pemberley
P.D. James

I read reviews of this book and heard P.D. (Baroness) James herself on NPR talking about it. How she had thought about doing something like a mystery based on Jane Austen's novels. She chose to make the mystery a sequel to the classic Pride and Prejudice. No zombies. I love both Jane Austen and P.D. James so I looked forward to it. Also having greatly enjoyed Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen as detective and secret agent series, it was interesting to think what P.D. James would do with this material so different in some ways that that of her contemporary protagonists Adam Dalgleish, London Police commander, or detective Cordelia Grey. But those are cerebral introspective detectives relying on instinct and emotions as well as logic. they are well written, atmospheric novels. My personeal favorites include The Black Tower, Murder Room and the Skull Beneath the Skin.

James picks up the story begun in Pride and Prejudice and uses the same characters. She begins 5 years after Lizzy and Darcy and Bingley and Jane have all married and had families. The folks at Pemberley are planning Lady Anne's ball, held each year in honor of Darcy's late mother. Amid the hustle of the preparations for the ball, something terrible happens. Wickham, despised Wickham, is involved.

Well, it's well written and kind of cerebral. The innermost thoughts of Darcy and Lizzy are laid out- both have regrets and all kinds of complicated emotions. They are still very much in love- each acknowling their most deeply held ideas and fears. It's not very Jane Austen though. For one, it's not witty or entertaining. Everyone, even Wickham, are so serious. It does not make anyone ridiculous. It doesn't even make fun of the clergy! Or the law, prominently displayed. I found the change in voice, the introspection, complicated feelings and regrets so unJane-like it was a bit disturbing. Then I got over any notion that this was a Jane Austen novel rather than a P. D. James and started to enjoy it. Especially the police procedural and trial bits. I didn't so much like James bringing in references to other novels like Emma and Persuasion. P.D.! Please murder one Jane Austen novel at a time. Thank you.

So on the whole, good stuff. Most enjoyable Regency crime novel. Don't think about Jane too
much and you'll like it. Or check out these folks for some fan fiction:

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