It is 1803, six years since Elizabeth and Darcy embarked on their life together at Pemberley, Darcy’s magnificent estate. Their peaceful, orderly world seems almost unassailable. Elizabeth has found her footing as the chatelaine of the great house. They have two fine sons, Fitzwilliam and Charles. 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.Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James is only the second Pride and Prejudice "sequel" that I've ever read. The first being Experience by Meg Kerr (which was fantastic, I highly suggest you read it if you haven't already).
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 Pemberley. She stumbles out of the carriage, hysterical, shrieking that Wickham has been murdered. With shocking suddenness, Pemberley is plunged into a frightening mystery.
I had high hopes for this one because Experience had been so good and so spot on as far as language and setting were concerned. It really felt like a true sequel that could have been written by Jane Austen herself. Death Comes to Pemberley was not quite as accurate in my opinion where conversation was concerned, but it wasn't bad. Not WONDERFUL... but not bad.
Scandal befalls Pemberley when Lydia Wickham interupts planning for Lady Anne's Ball screaming that she thinks her dear husband has been murdered. She is absolutely beside herself and blaming Elizabeth for what possibly has befallen her darling Georgie. After all, if she hadn't had to show up uninvited to Pemberley because she and her husband were not welcome there in the first place, they never would have been sneaking through the woodland and none of this ever would have happened!
Ugh. I never ever liked her. That much is still the same.
There are a few new characters introduced, Henry Alveston who only has eyes for Georgiana Darcy (and she for him) and a slew of magistrates and police and not so innocent bystanders. We also get to see more of Colonel Fitzwilliam who, as it were, also has eyes for Georgiana. However, nothing as far as that particular part of the story line where he's concerned is developed.
I was not accustomed to "seeing" Mr. Darcy as... weak... as he seemed to be in this book. There was a shift from P&P and Mr. Darcy seemed to take over as main character. We really don't see much of Lizzie at all. She was the focus of Jane Austen's novel, strong willed and independent. But she shrinks into the background of this story. And it's sad. Too much focus was put on the "murder mystery" and not enough on developing any of the characters. They were all so stuck and so static that I never got to know them or see how their relationship had grown since I'd last read about them.
The love story disappeared completely. And while I understand this was supposed to be mystery and suspense, I still hoped to experience some of what Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth felt toward each other previously... but it was barely a passing thought for the both of them. There was no chemistry between any of the characters.
Sadly, I'm not sure I'd really recommend this as a read. (SPOILER: I will never be a fan of the brother/sister romantic relationships... I just won't). I wouldn't necessarily discourage you from reading it... but if you asked to borrow my copy I'd probably tell you I couldn't find it. No, if you want a great P&P sequel, go read Experience by Meg Kerr.