Wednesday, November 12, 2014

James, P.R.:Death Comes to Pemberley

I have somehow never taken to the novels of P.R. James whom many consider the queen of British
thriller writers though both Ruth Rendell and Val McDermid are likely to be considered her equal or
better by many others.   This book is a departure as it is neither contemporary nor a policier.   It is
possibly the forerunner of a recent trend to write sequels to classic novels although the most frequently adapted character is surely Sherlock Holmes.   James here essays a sequel to Pride and
Prejudice setting the book in the early years of the 19th century with Elizabeth Bennett happily married to Darcy and a proud mother and more than capable chatelaine of Pemberley.   The couple
are about to continue the tradition of Darcy's late mother by having an autumn ball but their intention
is thwarted when, the night before the ball, Captain Denny is murdered on the estate while riding with
George Wickham and Lydia to Pemberley where the two men were going to leave Lydia so that she
might be at the ball, uninvited though she was.   Wickham, having been found in an incriminating
position, is arrested and tried for murder.   Apart from a cursory search around the area of the crime,
no investigation takes place though the trial is delayed and moved to London to ensure fairness.   The
bulk of the novel is the reaction of the family members to the crime and how this might have some
effect on their social position.   The final outcome is a little hard to accept as it is firmly based in the
social mores of Jane Austen's England which are so different from the present day.   Well written with
no noticeable anachronisms, eschewing archaic language, it well deserves its critical acclaim.

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