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Death Comes to Pemberley Hardcover – Deckle Edge, December 6, 2011

3.2 out of 5 stars 1,188 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Really, gentle reader, there are limits. When mystery grande dame P. D. James felt the mantle of Jane Austen fall on her shoulders, why didn’t she simply shrug it off? Instead, she has produced a straight-faced mystery—no zombies—in which a murdered body is found on the grounds of Darcy and Elizabeth’s stately home, Pemberley. James places a template of Austen characters and Austen-like language over a traditional mystery plot and even takes on the role of the omniscient Austen narrator herself. The mystery is set in 1803, six years after the wedding of Elizabeth and Darcy, with ample space given to catching us up on the recent doings of the Bennet family. On the mystery side, there’s plenty of action, from the discovery of Captain Denny’s body, through a trial, assorted deceptions and mix-ups, and love affairs. Unfortunately, though, if this is meant as an homage, it’s a pretty weak cup of tea, starting with a greatly diluted version of Austen’s famous “truth universally acknowledged” opening. James’ many fans will be pleased to see any kind of new book from the 91-year-old author, but discriminating Austen devotees are unlikely to appreciate the move from social comedy to murder. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: This late addition to Knopf’s winter list will require some last-minute marketing, but it has two very bankable Englishwomen on its side: Austen and James. --Connie Fletcher

Review

“A magnificent novel. . . . Incomparably perfect.” —USA Today

“A glorious plum pudding of a whodunit.” —NPR, Fresh Air

“The queen of mystery has taken on the queen of literature, [and] the combination sings. . . . [James’] elegance and sly wit are in top form.” —The Plain Dealer
 
“The greatest pleasure of this novel is its unforced, effortless, effective voice… Not infrequently . . . one succumbs to the impression that it is Austen herself at the keyboard.” —The New York Times Book Review

“[James] is the greatest living writer of British crime fiction, and probably that genre’s most talented practitioner ever.” —The New York Times
 
“A novel of manners par excellence.” —The Boston Globe
 
“A major treat for any fan of Jane Austen . . . [and] a solidly entertaining period mystery.” —The Washington Post
 
“A novel of dark intrigue. . . . [which] Ms. James presents with informed assurance and in fine period detail.” —The Wall Street Journal
 
“If you appreciate mysteries as well as the Mighty Jane, this pleasant entertainment will do nicely. . . . It is a universe of dark meanings [and] hidden relationships.” —Los Angeles Times

“James rises well above the ever-growing pack of Austen-inspired authors, not only for her intimate familiarity with Austen’s work, but for her faultless replication of time, place and, most notably, Austen’s trademark writing style.” —Newark Star-Ledger
 
“With well-laid clues, James weaves a credible tale with a satisfying conclusion. . . . She stamps this enticing blend of two authors’ minds with her formidable intelligence and the generosity of spirit that has marked all her work.” —Richmond Times Dispatch
 
“Dazzling . . . Meticulously plotted . . . In my view Death Comes to Pemberley is as good as anything P.D. James has written and that is very high praise indeed… Long may she continue to delight and surprise us.” —Simon Brett, Sunday Express
 
“Brimming with astute appreciation, inventiveness and narrative zest, Death Comes to Pemberley is an elegantly gauged homage to Austen and an exhilarating tribute to the inexhaustible vitality of James’s imagination.” —The Sunday Times (London)
 
“James takes Pride and Prejudice to places it never dreamed of, and does so with a charm that will beguile even the most demanding Janeite.” —London Evening Standard
 
“The final working-out shows all James’s customary ingenuity. . . . The stylistic pastiche is remarkably accomplished.” —Kirkus Reviews
 
“A pleasing and agreeable sequel… Historical mystery buffs and Jane Austen fans alike will welcome this homage… Attentive readers will eagerly seek out clues to the delightfully complex mystery, which involves many hidden motives and dark secrets.” —Publishers Weekly
 
“Satisfying. . . . [James is] an impeccable stylist and a psychological ins-and-outs maven.” —The Huffington Post
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (December 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307959856
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307959850
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,188 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #383,045 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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By Maine Colonial TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Death Comes to Pemberley begins six years after the close of Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are happily married and living at Pemberley, Mr. Darcy's Derbyshire estate, with their two young sons and Mr. Darcy's sister, Georgiana. The new book begins with a short prologue reviewing the action of Pride and Prejudice and the six years before this novel's story begins. We then enter the great house at Pemberley on the night before the Darcys are to host their annual autumn ball. Elizabeth's sister, Jane, and Jane's husband, Charles Bingley, are already in residence, along with Darcy's cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam. A new character, Mr. Alveston, is also a guest.

The hosts and guests are ready to retire for the night when a carriage comes careening up the drive, the door bursts open and out hurtles Lydia, Jane and Elizabeth's drama queen of a younger sister, screaming like a banshee that her husband, Wickham, has been shot and killed in Pemberley's woodland. (When you heard there was a Pride and Prejudice sequel with a murder, didn't you just *know* that Lydia would take center stage in the hubbub?) Because a murder has taken place on Darcy's estate and affects his family--no matter how distant the Darcys have always tried to keep from Wickham and Lydia--Darcy is necessarily involved in the resolution of the case. And, of course, the personal connections make the case an emotional trial for Darcy, Elizabeth and their extended families.

Famed mystery author P. D. James hasn't merely dressed up a mystery in Austen style. Her book is very much an exploration of Elizabeth and Darcy's characters, emotional lives and their marriage.
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Format: Hardcover
What is most disappointing about this book is what it doesn't manage to accomplish. Not too surprisingly, like all the modern efforts to read sequels and other riffs on the characters in Austen novels (and Pride & Prejudice in particular), PD James fails to capture the unique tone and focus of the original, much less master the detailed character studies Austen provides her readers. More unexpected is the fact that although this pen is being wielded by PD James, author of the meticulously-crafted series of mysteries featuring Adam Dalgliesh, this doesn't succeed in being a a compelling mystery. Indeed the "whodunnit" -- who is responsible for the death of the man found in the woodlands surrounding Pemberley? -- feels almost perfunctory. PD James writes of her characters witnessing the eventual trial that is the climax of the book that they are all anxious and distraught. Unfortunately, she never managed to convey that to the reader, or create a corresponding sense of unease and tension in this particular reader.

That's not to say that this is a bad book, if the reader is able to forget its illustrious parentage. It's entertaining and well-written; James has managed to avoid some of the silliest missteps of many Austen imitators, such as using the word "chuse" for "choose", or having her characters do things that are utterly out of the spirit of the times about which she is writing. And there are some interesting or intriguing glimpses back at P&P (although those familiar with the plot may find the first dozen or so pages, in which James revisits the events of that iconic novel, a bit tiring), and at Austen characters from other novels, such as Persuasion.
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Format: Hardcover
If you're a fan of Jane Austen and P.D. James, Death Comes to Pemberly will disappoint. It has neither Jane Austen's wit nor P.D. James's suspense or character development. There is too much rehashing of the Pride and Prejudice plot, which is surely not needed for those who would be drawn to this book, and, in general, too much "reader feeder." Parts of the book read like a treatise on 19th century legal procedure. Too much narrative and uninteresting detail and too little action. Dialog is sparse and wooden and our favorite characters - Darcy and Elizabeth - hardly have any scenes together and none of the chemistry or electricity of Austen's original.
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I am a huge admirer of Jane Austen and also a considerable fan of P.D. James -- so I am very sad to report that this book is a pale imitation of Austen and very far from vintage James.

After reading it, the question arose in my mind: why do prequels and "postquels" of classic works almost always fail? Why is it that the "Mr. Darcy" industry, which has become almost a sub-genre of literature in its own right, so mediocre?

I think it's because the author, even a great author like P.D. James, is inhabiting (or trying to inhabit) characters created by someone else. It was Jane Austen, and Jane Austen alone, who created Elizabeth Bennet. Anyone else who tries to tinker with that character is, to quote yet another current title, playing the part of the zombie in "Pride and Prejudice."

We meeet Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy five years into their happy marriage. But it is not the same Elizabeth and Darcy we have known. Elizabeth, retired into domestic bliss as a mother and the chataleine of Pemberly, has lost that crucial wit and spark -- that feistiness and sense of self -- that Austen gave her and which made us love her. Darcy is still a haughty snob obsessed with social niceties.

There is a murder and Mr. Wickham is accused. We get an investigation and trial and a bunch of blah, blah, blah until it all ends with a recap of the main points of "Pride and Prejudice."

Various characters from P&P show up, but for some reason they are all the boring ones and not the amusing ones. We get Jane (boring), Mr. Bingley (boring), Georgianna (boring) but not Mr. Collins. We get a very boring version of Mr. Bennet but not Mrs. Bennet.

I know that P.D. James loves Austen. I wish she had not succumbed to the temptation to try to add to what was already perfect.
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