Book Review: Death Comes to Pemberly by PD James

March 1, 2013

Death Comes To Pemberley

What do you do when you are uncrowned queen of crime fiction, have won multiple awards, been given a life peerage, and are nearing a hundred years on the planet? Well, in the case of Phyllis Dorothy James, Baroness James of Holland Park, or plain PD James, as millions of readers know her, you pick up a classic and add your signature touch to it. And that exactly is what Death Comes to Pemberley is– a sequel to one of literature’s classic, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, told by PD James.

The story picks up six years after the events of Pride and Prejudice with Elizabeth and Darcy having been happily married for six years, with two offspring to boot. Life is however not destined to be tranquil as her sister Lydia (who had shocked the family by eloping with the notorious George Wickham) gets into trouble again. Or rather her husband does, as he gets implicated in a murder charge.  And Darcy finds himself looking into the matter as the crime happened on his property (Pemberley).

This is not a hectic page turning affair, but elegant, gentle prose, with hints of irony that Ms Austen herself would have approved of. James seem right at home in the nineteenth century and in Austen’s world.  Some will pine for the Elizabeth-Darcy romance, but others will sigh fondly at the semblance that Darcy provides to Adam Dalgleish, perhaps James’ most famous detective character – brooding, introspective and intense.

Some might find it tedious and slow by thriller standards. We found it perfectly impeccable by those of Jane Austen herself. Death Comes to Pemberley is PD James bringing a classic back to life. A must-read if you have read Austen’s work. If you haven’t, what HAVE you been doing?


“ ‘You sound like a radical, Darcy. I had not realised you had such an interest in the law or were so dedicated to its reform.’

‘Nor, had I, but when one is faced, as we are now, by the reality of what awaits George Wykham, and how narrow the gap between life and death, it is perhaps natural to be both interested and concerned.’”

Death Comes to Pemberly
PD James
Faber and Faber
Rs. 499
310 pages

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