Book Club: Death Comes to Pemberley

Book Club was postponed from last week, but to be honest, I’m not sure the discussion of this book was worth the wait. Note: the following review is written under the assumption of prior knowledge of the characters of Pride and Prejudice.

Crime writer PD James has penned this fan fiction style novel using the characters from P&P, picking up the story 6 years on, with Darcy and Elizabeth happily ensconced at Pemberley with their children, amd Jane and Bingley living not far away. On the eve of the annual Pemberley ball, Lydia Whickham arrives and hysterically declares that her husband has been murdered. As it turns out, it isn’t Whickham that has died, but his friend Captain Denny, with Whickham left as chief suspect, though he protests his innocence.

And so begins a fairly tedious story. We all agreed that James had managed to choose a completely uninteresting character for the victim, and for the accused, one who we didn’t particularly care about at all. So Whickham might go to jail or be hanged – so what? So Denny is dead – none of the other characters in the story care about that, so why should we? The names we all know and love from Pride and Prejudice barely feature. There is about 10 times more dialogue from the man who drove the carriage containing the two men than there is from Elizabeth, Jane and Bingley combined.

In the end, we unanimously decided that this, coupled with the incredibly repetitive nature of each section of the book (the evidence being detailed firstly after the body is found, then again at the inquest, and then again at the trial), made it actually quite boring. And if there is one issue that really jumped out at me, it is the fact that although Lydia was in the carriage with Whickham and Denny before their fateful argument, no one thought to actually ask her what happened in the moments leading up to the killing.

Between us we took about 4 minutes to come up with a much better plot – Whickham is murdered, and Darcy, Elizabeth, Georgiana, Lydia and Bingley are all suspects. The verdict, then, is could do better. Two stars.

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