Death Comes to Pemberley

James, P. D.

Book - 2011
Average Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
Death Comes to Pemberley
Pemberley is thrown into chaos after Elizabeth Bennett's disgraced sister Lydia arrives and announces that her husband Wickham has been murdered.

Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2011
Edition: 1st U.S. ed
ISBN: 9780307959850
Branch Call Number: MYSTERY JAMES 2011
Characteristics: 291 p. ;,25 cm
Additional Contributors: Austen, Jane 1775-1817 (Pride and prejudice)


From Library Staff

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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Mar 15, 2015
  • artemishi rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

Well, I am not a true Janeite (no surprise, I suppose) because I have the very unpopular opinion of disliking Death Comes to Pemberley. I expected a mystery set in Jane Austen's world, but what I got was a snorefest.

That's not to say that P. D. James' writing style is amateur. The author captures the cadence and lilt of Austen's voice pretty darn well. The problem is that it lacks entertainment. Austen's appeal lies largely in her witty descriptions of characters, and our growing to know them throughout the book by their actions and reactions. James uses characters we already know and, rather than flesh them out more, basically explains things that Austen left vague (like Darcy's motivation in certain aspects).

The mystery is not tantalizingly dangled in front of the reader, for us to piece together or even engage with. A thing happens, a period-appropriate legal response happens, and then everything is explained. There was absolutely no sense of suspense or intrigue, or titillation, at all.

Overall, this story was flat and dull to me, a series of events that plod along with nothing to keep me invested. Part of this is probably because it's largely centered around Darcy (whom I actually dislike), and there's a style of "blah blah blah, he said" that I found grating on the nerves. While James is stylistically quite Austen, the meat of the story is lacking.

I recommend it only to huge Austen fans, those that adore P&P (and Darcy) and want to see the characters again in any respect, and those that enjoy long-winded, dry explanations for everything.

Dec 05, 2014
  • Chapel_Hill_SarahW rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

I love reading about the continued stories of Elizabeth and Darcy and a mystery seemed like it might be fun. I had heard quite a bit about this when it came out, but it didn't quite live up to my expectations. The writing and dialogue was appropriate for an Austen spin-off, but there wasn't any suspense or intrigue really.

Oct 21, 2014
  • rab1953 rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

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.

Sep 05, 2014
  • Another_Opinion rated this: 0.5 stars out of 5.

Wow! Some people actually liked this book! I thought it was dull and plodding, slow and wordy. This is not a mystery, there are no clues that could allow you to solve the case as you go along. Odd behavior by Colonel FitzWilliam is explained late but has no real relation to the plot, only to a poorly developed sub-plot.

I don't recommend this at all.

May 27, 2014
  • Rock_Shadow rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Another fun murder mystery by P.D. James. I expected a good crime novel, and the book delivered. It helped to have read Jane Austen to know who was who, and not to expect a sequel.

Nov 12, 2013
  • falconroom rated this: 1.5 stars out of 5.

Whle i've enjoyed Austen and p & p in the past, it was so long ago, like the previous commenter said, I was "mystified" and--ultimately--bored to death. It was a staff pick, which i usually enjoy (I find some gems!), i sent this one back unread; that is extremely unusual for me.

Aug 29, 2013
  • azor rated this: 2.5 stars out of 5.

If you haven't read Jane Austen you will be completely mystified by this! Interesting experiment and fun for Austen fans to read. But nothing more.

Jul 22, 2013
  • tuesdayswithlori rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

The mimicry of Jane Austin was very good. The plot...not so much. It was a bit obvious, actually and while I thought some of the loose threads from Pride and Prejudice were cleverly wrapped up, it was not a real revelation. I also thought the voice of Elizabeth was a bit too anxious almost right from the start and the voice of Darcy was at times too effusive. It was an interesting take on how the Darcy's would have grown and the ultimate ending was not unforseen and was satisfactory, but not stupendous.

Jun 21, 2013
  • Haley_B rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

I was excited to read this book in preparation for BBC One's adaptation of it. P&P is one of my favorite reads and I looked forward to this book.

It was a good story, but somehow I didn't find P.D. James' portrayal of Mr. Darcy to ring true to Austen's. He seemed unsure of himself sometimes, and allowed his cousin to take control far too easily. Elizabeth's dialogue was nothing like Austen's.

The mystery was interesting to me. I enjoyed watching it unfold, but it just seemed to end in a hurry.

Although this was an interesting read to me, simply writing using Regency language and turns of phrase does not a Jane Austen book make. If you can read this as an interesting story and not as a sequel to P&P you might enjoy it more.

May 24, 2013
  • ser_library rated this: 1 stars out of 5.

predictable plot which violates the Knox rules for mysteries

not well written

reminds me of Dr Johnson's comments of women preachers

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