Historical Fiction: Death Comes to Pemberley, by P.D. James

Death Comes to Pemberley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

P.D. James, declared by no less a source than the NY Times to be England’s “most talented practitioner” of British Crime Fiction, makes a departure from her contemporary work to visit the world of Jane Austen. In Death Comes to Pemberley, Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett have been Happily Married for several years and are the Parents of two Young Sons (and Heirs). Elizabeth’s impetuous sister, fans will recall, is married to the roguish and ever unfaithful George Wickham, who is Decidedly Not Welcome at Pemberley. In the course of arriving as uninvited guests, Wickham becomes involved in the death of his close friends, which takes place during a stormy night in the Pemberley woodlands. He’s accused of murder, of which even Darcy refuses to consider him capable. Soon Wickham will be on trial for his life.

Ms. James is the consummate author, and she does a more than creditable job of channeling the Regency era among the aristocracy. The plot is simple, and Darcy is no Dalgliesh, but it’s a great pleasure to follow the course of this charming story, which does capture the tenor of Jane Austen’s fictional world. The Darcy marriage is, of course, idyllic, and he never neglects the opportunity to declare his love for his wife. He calls her Elizabeth, but we don’t know what she calls him, as I can’t recollect ever seeing her use a name. Fitzwilliam? Wills? Billyboy? Fitz? Alas, we’ll Never Know. I’m generally Not Fond of books in which authors confiscate the Famous Characters of others, but in the case of the brilliant P.D.J., I’ve made an exception.

Nothing short of Delightful.

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