For today, I am going to deal with Death Comes to Pemberley, by P.D. James! Thanks again to my dear friend and subscriber who has offered me this book! This detective sequel to Jane Austen’s novel was a well chosen gift!
The Darcys have been married for six years when, on the eve of the annual ball, the serenity of Pemberley is threatened by a dreadful event. Lydia Wickham bursts into the house -where she was not expected-, madly screaming that her spouse has been murdered. Darcy organizes researches in the woodland of Pemberley and finds Wickham smeared with blood, next to the dead body of his friend, Captain Denny, claiming to be responsible for his death. Darcy is menaced to disgrace because of the crime that occurred on his land and of which his brother is the chief suspect… Nevertheless, in court, Wickham pleads not guilty.
Being a begginner reader of detective novels, I found the plot well done and liked the suspense kept until the very last chapter. I also appreciated the efforts of the author to build a credible investigation in the XIXth century. I suppose that it is difficult to create an investigation and legal proceedings which, without modern scientific means, are essentially based on the word of the people concerned. I was even quite shocked by the ineffectiveness of the trial… However, the truth struck me as quite plausible, knowing the character of Mr Wickham.
It seems that P.D. James’ purpose was not to equal the original novel but to develop and share afterthoughts about it. According to me, this bold challenge is met. This sequel kind of « loops the loop ». Having reached the last word, I felt as if all the mysteries in the original text as well as those in the sequel were fully resolved. Even if I respect the rational explanations of the author, I regret that it lets no room for the fancy of other readers. Not only the investigation is resolved, but the veil is lifted on the gray areas of Pride and Prejudice and its very human characters are enclosed in stereotypes. Wickham and Darcy are in line with expectations: on one hand, Wickham is proud, seductive, sentimental and kind of weak, and, on the other hand, Darcy is powerful, strong, loyal and devoted to his legacy and his family but introverted. Besides, we do not discover Georgiana as an adult and Elizabeth is sweet, discreet and sidelined, which is unforgivable. The worst being the epilogue that stifles everything in a « happily ever after » kind of ending.
To conclude, Death Comes to Pemberley is a pleasant and interesting book, as long as you prevent it from stopping your imagination!