In Death Comes to Pemberley P. D. James does not attempt to beat Jane Austen at her own game; there is no romantic tension between the main characters, who are already Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. But the shame is that James doesn't do particularly well at her game — the detection of a murderer — in this sequel to Pride and Prejudice, Austen's most beloved work.
The potential for suspense was there: Wickham, the knave from Pride and Prejudice who ran off with Elizabeth Bennet Darcy's youngest sister, is accused of murdering a friend on Darcy's estate, Pemberley. This framework could have set up Elizabeth and Darcy as amateur detectives who solve the mystery but in the process experience the first disagreement and tension in their marriage. Instead, there is no detection; the murderer writes a confession; and nothing ruffles the Darcys' marital harmony.
Many pages are taken up recounting what Austen fans already know. What they may enjoy most about the book is James's speculation about Elizabeth and Darcy's happily ever after. Readers are also brought up to date (1803, that is) on Elizabeth's sisters' matrimonial progress (only one still unmarried) and the romance of Darcy's sister Georgiana.
Death Comes to Pemberley is a pleasant enough read, but with no star-crossed relationship to be resolved, it's not like an Austen novel; and with a very tame mystery, it's not even like a P. D. James novel.
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