Being a big fan of Jane Austin and P. D. James, this novel was an absolute treat for me. Only an author of the calibre of P. D. James could bring murder to Pemberley and still retain the sense of the characters from Pride and Prejudice. With P. D. James now over 90 years of age, I wasn’t expecting her to publish any new work, so this novel was a real treat and timed to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Jane Austin’s first published novel.
Set in 1803, 6 years after the end of Pride and Prejudice, the start of the novel brings us up to date with what has happened to the main characters. Lizzy (ne Bennet) and Darcy are happily living at Pemberley and have two young sons. Lizzy’s beloved sister Jane lives nearby with Bingley and their three children. Darcy’s beautiful sister, Georgiana, while still unmarried, has two serious suitors. Lydia and Wickham are still struggling for respectability. And even Mary Bennet has found herself a husband (a Vicar, of course).
Preparations are in their final stages for the annual Pemberley ball when Lydia arrives at Pemberley in Hysterics. Wickham and his friend Captain Denny has gone missing in the Pemberley woodland and gun shots have been heard. The search party find Wickham leaning over Denny’s dead body and Wickham is accused of his murder.
The rest of the novel focuses on Wickham’s incarceration and trial and the devastating effect that this has on Pemberley’s tranquillity. Subtle aspersions are caste on the quality of crime investigation, the prison system and the law at the time.
I still have trouble identifying with the life of the extremely rich in the 18th and 19th centuries and can’t imagine a life spent visiting, writing letters and arranging flowers. But, the characters of Lizzy, Darcy and others are true to their originals in Pride and Prejudice. This book is a must for Jane Austin and P. D. James fans.
Book Published 2011