Back Cover Blurb: The year is 1803, and Darcy and Elizabeth have been married for six years. There are now two handsome and healthy sons in the Pemberley nursery, Elizabeth’s beloved sister Jane and her husband, Bingley, live within seventeen miles, the ordered and secure life of Pemberley seems unassailable, and Elizabeth’s happiness in her marriage is complete. But their peace is threatened and old sins and misunderstandings are rekindled on the eve of the annual autumn ball. The Darcys and their guests are preparing to retire for the night when a chaise appears, rocking down the path from Pemberley’s wild woodland, and as it pulls up, Lydia Wickham, an uninvited guest, tumbles out, screaming that her husband has been murdered.
I started this book with high hopes. The story starts off with a recap of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in order to acquaint any readers new to the story, with the background to the characters. I’m not sure that this was a necessary addition to the book for either group of readers. As a fan of Austen’s book I felt that it was talking down to me and it was an annoyance rather than an added bonus. I would imagine that for those who have never read Pride and Prejudice (who are those people?), that it possibly didn’t add anything to the reading of this book. There certainly wasn’t enough there to truly do justice to the characters of Lydia and Wickham. The story I feel stands alone as a murder mystery.
There are a lot of characters in this story, I have only read one other P.D. James book ‘Death in Holy Orders” and for me this story felt like I was in a familiar environment. I pretty well worked out who the murderer was from very early in the book. Details weren’t elaborated on until very late in the book, and it felt just a bit too deliberate a ploy to add the feeling of suspense. In fact, I think it frustrated the suspenseful nature of the story, which was a little disappointing.
Most importantly for those who adore Austen’s original characters, how did P.D. James treat them? This is becoming increasingly popular when we see the number of sequels to classic books that I’m not sure even need to have sequels. I understand completely the desire to know what happened after, what became of Mary, Kitty, Lydia and Wickham, and the two married couples. Who wouldn’t love to know if Charlotte has completely lost her mind married to Mr Collins? However, the romance of the characters belongs to the deft hand of authors of a time and era that I’m not sure we can really successfully replicate in the 21st Century.
I think that P.D. James handled the characters with great respect and with faith to the original characterisation of them, I really could not take issue with how she depicted them. This may be in light of the fact that a few years ago I read Colleen McCullough’s The Independence of Miss Mary Bennett and I thought the characters had been absolutely ravaged – poor, poor Lydia!! It left me feeling depressed about what happened to ALL of the Bennetts. So in comparison P.D. James did a pretty good job and I would say it doesn’t actually fall into the true category of a sequel as it centres around one event. However, I go back to my consideration as to whether there should be sequels or not. This novel left me feeling that again my long loved characters should not be toyed with, you may not agree with me, but this is how I feel and I’ve decided that this is the side of the fence I shall sit on. For me this is a general feeling of sanctimony that I am willing to own in the truest sense of the word meaning – Feigned piety or righteousness; hypocritical devoutness or high-mindedness.
Overall this book provides an light, enjoyable murder mystery that P.D. James fans will recognise and appreciate. I think it could have stood on it’s own as a story without the use of the Pride and Prejudice characters.