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Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James
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Death Comes to Pemberley

by P. D. James

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Showing 1-5 of 214 (next | show all)
Interesting concept, but just not very interesting in the execution (pun unintended). Dull characters, unfortunately.
  RGilbraith | Nov 1, 2014 |
Plenty of marks for the depiction of Elizabeth and Darcy's life at Pemberley six years after the events of Pride & Prejudice, and a good number of them off for an unsatisfactory resolution to the question of whether Mr Wickham is a murderer, and if not, then who is.

I enjoyed the first 2/3 of this book very much, and was looking forward to a satisfying conclusion to the detective story ... but it never arrived! Instead, Mr Darcy stands around while other characters explain things to him, while Elizabeth is stuck at home and completely marginalised from the narrative. Pemberley seems the perfect setting for a country-house mystery, but once the mystery leaves the country house and heads to London, the air goes out of the novel. I'm disappointed, because I expected much better from an author of P. D. James' stature. ( )
  timjones | Oct 26, 2014 |
Boring. Oddly enough, I was half way through this before I realized that I had read it before. It didn’t engage me the first time, and it still does not. I didn’t find the wit and social satire from Jane Austin, although James adopts a writing style and voice that mimic Austin’s. And nor did I find the gripping murder mystery that I expected from James. The style feels forced and the mystery seems contrived.
Okay, James shows that in the genteel social setting of the propertied classes of the nineteenth century, even the idea of being associated with a mystery was (as she would say) abhorrent. As a woman, Elizabeth must keep away from anything suggesting scandal, so much of the story has to be seen from Darcy’s point of view. And he is such a self-restrained and self-regarding individual that he focuses more on how the murder might affect his own family than on the perpetrator or the victim. This is a perspective that is difficult to relate to, and pushes the hints of social consciousness about the situation of the property-less and of women far to the background.
Perhaps the most interesting character, for example, is Mrs. Younge, who succeeds against all odds in creating for herself a degree of security and wealth by taking advantage of the social strictures imposed on wealthy society, but we see her only in glimpses through the eyes of observers who hate her. James hints at the costs that this imposed on her, but from the limited perspective she has chosen, she cannot give Mrs. Younge any depth or colour.
One of the few bits that had a sense of reality was the examination conducted by the nineteenth century medical men, and it was interesting to imagine what they actually knew and understood with limited forensic tools. Similarly, the inquiry and court procedures were interesting in illustrating the legal forms of the time. (Although it’s difficult to see how the entire examination, cross-examination, judgement and sentencing could have taken place in what appears to be one day, but I leave that to James’ actual legal knowledge and her authorial license.)
So who is the book written for? James apparently enjoyed the idea of writing in the voice of one of her (and her readers’) favourite writers. But instead of the sharp observations of Jane Austin, we get a look at the ongoing relationship of a romanticized couple, which reveals little except that they get along well, care for their children, and live up to the social expectations of their time and class. The tragedy is that Elizabeth’s vulgar sister and her husband might upset their quiet life and the marriage prospects of Darcy’s younger sister (although there’s no real danger of that either, since she is being courted by a young man who would be happy to marry her regardless of the potential scandal). Perhaps Austin could have made me care about the upset to the social equilibrium, but James does not. ( )
  rab1953 | Oct 21, 2014 |
“Darcy, who was standing by the window, gave a sudden exclamation”

Two great dames of literature meet – Ms Austen and Ms James. P. D. James has imagined Elizabeth and Darcy settled at Pemberley, two fine boys in the nursery and the Bingley settled not too far away at Highmarten. Georgiana is growing up and entertaining suitors, and the household is preparing for the great annual Lady Anne’s Ball when a coach arrives at full speed late at night, from which Lydia emerges, hysterical about a fight between Wickham and Denny. The ensuing investigation dredges up all the bad blood we witnessed in Pride & Prejudice.

Firstly, as I wrote yesterday, I am generally not a fan of these “what happened after Lizzy and Darcy marry” stories as they are generally (based on my short experience with Jane Austen Made Me Do It) a bit sordid and voyeuristic. Fortunately there was no such discomfort in DCTP, although the ending was spectacularly twee and along those lines.

James does a sterling effort of keeping the characters as they were in P&P, although Darcy is really the hero of this narration and he is frequently unsure, not something I would have described him as in P&P. Maybe that is the point of P&P, that he learns to doubt his first impressions. Anyhow. The voice of the narration is very Austen-like and James spends a long time establishing her credentials as an Austen imitator before she brings in the mystery.

My objection to the mystery was that the solution was too obscure and while credible, too convoluted; the obvious version of events was built up and adhered to so strongly for so much of the book that the eventual revelation felt a little deus ex machina rather than an alternative interpretation of the facts.

Writing this review, I realise that I am struggling to say many good things. I thought the book perfectly passable. I will be passing it on to someone I am confident will enjoy it. I don’t find fault with the writing, any huge character changes or a weak plot; I just wasn’t thrilled. ( )
  readingwithtea | Oct 19, 2014 |
I think it's pretty clear to anyone who regularly reads my books reviews: I love Pride & Prejudice. I love Mr. Darcy and I am willing to read virtually anything that relates to the book or characters. I believe I have low expectations for what other people produce when it comes to spinoffs, but I do have expectations. When I saw P.D. James had written an adaptation that included a mystery, I admit I was a bit thrilled and anxious to read it. While I have not had a chance to read her other mystery books, I do know she is well known in the genre. James acknowledges that Austen was not a fan of mysteries and pretty much vowed to never write another after Mansfield Park. She raised my expectations and produced a solid story that I think does justice to who the characters are and the world they lived in.

I especially like the way she moved forward on some character stories. She caught readers up on what she thought should happen to the Bennett sisters, their families and friends (and enemies). She explored a bit of what life was like in a big house like Pemberley so it was a little like Downton Abbey meets Jane Austen. She set up a mystery and smaller, related mysteries for the reader to explore. The resolutions made sense for the world they happened in. She even managed to create sympathy for characters you may have not cared for and sometimes reminded you who they really were and that your sympathy, like those of other characters, was misplaced. I liked the reasons behind the murder and found that, while the culprit was easy to guess, the exact motive and turn of events was a small surprise.

What I struggled with was the lack of discovery through the book. This book felt more like an Austen-ized Downton Abbey than a mystery novel. She put a lot of focus on the nature of the world they lived in, the dynamic of servant to employer, life in a small town around a wealthy landowner, and the inner workings of social negotiations. Very little time was spent solving the mystery. In fact, other than the process of the legal system, the mystery doesn't really become the focus until the last quarter of the book and then it's to explain and wrap up. I also felt there was a lack of Elizabeth. She was, in my opinion the most mistreated character in that she was the only mistreated character. Gone was our spunky, independent thinking, tenacious Lizzy. In her place we find a woman worried about protecting Pemberley and the Darcy name. I had hoped she would play a role in solving the mystery. I had hoped that she and Darcy would do it together. Instead, she was almost a minor character. Fitzwilliam and Darcy were at the center of this story. I missed my Lizzy...

In the end, I did enjoy it and will pass it on to others who enjoy Pride & Prejudice sequels. ( )
  librarygurl | Oct 6, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 214 (next | show all)
. . . an excellent period mystery, replete with all manner of mayhem, and a most welcome way to revisit Elizabeth and Darcy. . .
added by 4leschats | editBookPage, Sukey Howard (Apr 1, 2012)
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
P. D. Jamesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kauhanen, MaijaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Landor, RosalynNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Landor, RosalynReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mitchell, SheilaReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ragnhild EikliTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Trond Peter Stamsø MunchNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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To Joyce McLennan
Friend and personal assistant who has typed my novels for thirty-five years
With affection and gratitude
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It was generally agreed by the female residents of Meryton that Mr and Mrs Bennett of Longbourn had been fortunate in the disposal in marriage of four of their five daughters.
Quotations
Author's note: 
I owe an apology to the shade of Jane Austen for involving her beloved Elizabeth in the trauma of a murder investigation, especially as in the final chapter of Mansfield Park Miss Austen made her views quite plain: 'Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody not greatly in fault themselves to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest.' No doubt she would have replied to my apology by saying that, had she wished to dwell on such odious subjects, she would have written this story herself, and done it better.
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Originally published: London : Faber and Faber, 2011.
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Book description
It is 1803, six years since Elizabeth and Darcy embarked on their life together at Pemberley, Darcy's magnificent state. Their peaceful, orderly world seems almost unassailable. Elizabeth has found her footing as the chatelaine of the great house. Elizabeth's sister Jane and her husband, Bingley, live nearby; her father visits often; there is optimistic talk about the prospects of marriage for Darcy's sister Georgiana. And preparations are under way for their much-anticipated annual autumn ball.

Then, on the eve of the ball, the patrician idyll is shattered. A coach careens up the drive carrying Lydia, Elizabeth's disgraced sister, who with her husband, the very dubious Wickham, has been banned from Pemberly. She stumbles out of the carriage, hysterical, shrieking that Wickham has been murdered. With shocking suddenness, Pemberley is plunged into a frightening mystery.

Inspired by a lifelong passion for Austen, P.D. James masterfully re-creates the world of Pride and Prejudice, electrifying with the excitement and suspense of a brilliantly crafted crime story, as only she can write it.

[from the back cover]
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Pemberley is thrown into chaos after Elizabeth Bennett's disgraced sister Lydia arrives and announces that her husband Wickham has been murdered.

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