I just (finally!) finished Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James. My mother even wanted to read it, so we bought a copy at Books-a-Million and, since I was still reading Major Pettigrew, Mom started reading Death Comes to Pemberley. I went into it with high hopes — as you all know, Austen is my absolute favorite author, and P.D. James is brilliant in her own way, and the combination of Austen’s characters and a James plot was very, very enticing.
The reality, however, did not live up to my expectations. Granted, it’s possible that my expectations were too high, but this book was not nearly as entertaining as it could have been. I’ve read enough sequels, prequels, modernizations and retellings of Austen to know that they absolutely can be entertaining. In fact, my favorite sequel of all (Pemberley Shades, by Dorothy Bonavia-Hunt) has a mystery at its core.
As I said before, I am a fan of both Austen and James, and I found this book to be decidedly unsatisfying on both counts. Elizabeth and Darcy weren’t instantly recognizable as Austen’s beloved characters. They were actually rather boring people. Wickham ends up being a decorated soldier and Mrs. Younge turns out to be his sister. The murder victim is Wickham’s friend, Captain Denny, and Wickham is arrested for the murder. The real murderer is a dying man who lives on the Pemberley estate who thinks he is killing Wickham, the man who seduced his sister and left her with an illegitimate child. The last few chapters, where first Colonel Fitzwilliam, and then Wickham, explained the whole story, were a muddle. I did like how James brought in other Austen characters — Wickham’s employer was a Sir Walter Elliot and the people who end up adopting Wickham’s bastard are a Mr. and Mrs. Robert Martin of Highbury. But overall I did not find myself emotionally involved in this story at all. I kept reading because I hoped it would get better. Unfortunately, it never did. And, just for the record, Mom found it rather dull also.