Why I Picked It: My adoration of Jane Austen, and the good reviews for this novel
Quick Take: Six years after Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth and Darcy’s familial bliss is disturbed when Elizabeth’s wayward sister Lydia shows up at Pemberley screaming that her husband, Wickham, has been murdered.
My Thoughts: First, this novel is definitely more P.D. James than Jane Austen. That said, if you enjoy a good murder mystery/historical fiction mystery, this is an enjoyable read. Austen created wonderful characters and it’s only natural others seek to employ them in their own tales.
James is a renowned mystery writer, and she’s written a decent yarn. There are suitable twists and turns, villainous rogues and well-intentioned bystanders. I would have done better to read this novel as a mystery novel that happens to feature people with the same names as the beloved characters of one of my favorite books, Pride and Prejudice, than as a further adventure of Darcy and Elizabeth. This my approach to the 1999 film version of Mansfield Park, and viewed from that perspective, a nice period piece.
Jane Austen’s novels are about women, and their lives. Her novels depict interesting, fully realized women worthy of their own stories. Death Comes to Pemberley is Darcy’s story; Elizabeth is a minor character who fulfills the traditional role of supportive woman to her protagonist husband. I was disappointed. The Lizzie I know and love would not have dutifully waited at Pemberley and functioned primarily as a comfort to Darcy. She had her own thoughts and opinions, and while she may have jumped to conclusions, been prejudiced, her flaws make her human and lovable. My Lizzie has spirit and spunk. James’ Mrs. Darcy is none of these things.