I have tried a number of P.D. James novels (the Dalgliesh murder mystery series) over the years and never really been drawn in. There always seem to be too many characters to get your head around and plots that are too complicated for the length of the book.
However, Death Comes to Pemberley is excellent. If you are a fan of and are familiar with Pride and Prejudice (either the book or the BBC production), this is for you. James has set this murder mystery at Pemberley Estate, 6 years after Darcy and Elizabeth’s marriage. Captain Denney is found dead in the woods late one night with Captain Wickham weeping over his body, yet was he the killer?
This book gives Pride and Prejudice fans a chance to see how everyone’s lives might have turned out – are Darcy and Elizabeth happy? How many children did Jane and Bingley have? What happened to Mary and Kitty? It is a clever idea that has been very well executed. In a delightful twist, she even weaves characters from other Austen novels in at various points.
James even writes like Austen, both in style and turn of phrase, so it felt like a sequel, including treats like this (regarding Lade Catherine’s opinion of Elizabeth):
Lady Catherine was the essentially the same woman that she had always been, but now the shades of Pemberley were less polluted when Elizabeth took her daily exercise under the trees, and Lady Catherine became fonder of visiting Pemberley that either Darcy or Elizabeth were anxious to receive her. (Book 4, section 2)
If you are a Pride and Prejudice fan, this should not disappoint.
(I also read Children of Men by P.D. James: a futuristic view of mankind who have lost their ability to reproduce. Very 1984 in style, it is a disturbing and insightful look into what could happen in such a society. A good read.)