Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James

It's with a heavy heart I write this little review.

Because of my great love of both PD James and all things Jane Austen it is sad to put into words what a disappointment Death Comes to Pemberley was to read. I grant you my expectations were pretty darn high. PD James is my fav contemporary mystery writer, who usually has beautifully thought out plots, character development, and spot-on prose. The characters of Pride and Prejudice are, well, perfect as we all know. So the combination of the two should have resulted in some awesome drawing room mystery involving our favorite characters in a carefully thought out dramatic murder mystery. How hard can that be to write?

Unfortunately this novel is not up to par with PD James' repertoire of great mysteries. The most glaring fault of the book is its incredibly slow pace. Usually James' books build to a climax. The tension and plot discoveries of the mystery usually have a riveting pace that keeps you guessing, you know, the fun part of murder mysteries. But Pemberley isn't a very exciting place in this novel. The crime occurs in the beginning of the novel and the sequence of events is repeated ad nauseum, but without new insights as to who the real killer is. No new excitement is offered and it seems painstaking to have the same events repeatedly told to different characters, an inquiry, and finally a trial. I kept thinking there would be an exciting twist, a second crime, Darcy revealing the true killer, but was continually disappointed.

James also breaks a golden rule of mystery writing and brings in a totally undeveloped and unrelated character as the real killer of the story. I found this baffling as James has never stooped to such a position in all her other mysteries. This not only left me disappointed but downright angry. How could the author take the easy way out that way? And to not involve any original Austen character as the real killer??

Another deficiency of the book was the sparse showing of Elizabeth's and Darcy's relationship. The two are hardly in the same room throughout the story, and the times of actual conversation is almost rationed. It seemed such a shame to have the world of Elizabeth and Darcy's marriage so poorly employed in the story.

I feel as if there were such big problems with this book that the discussion of how PD James handles Austen's characters is irrelevant, however, I liked the way James dealt with the characters. They felt instantly familiar and there was nothing glaringly contradictory to Austen. It just made the disappointment all the greater that this book missed the opportunity of making a really great mystery using such beloved characters!

Anyone else read it yet?


  1. I've been meaning to start reading it...too bad you didn't like it! Now I'm not so eager....

  2. Well I was going to buy this book, but because of your reasons, I know I would be highly disappointed as well! Darn it! Another one bites the dust...
    I ordered a few books that I heard were fantastic and both were disappointing so I have went back to sense and sensibility which I love. Can't go wrong with the classics;)

  3. I'm still bummed that I was so disappointed in it-Paul would keep asking if it was getting better, and I'd keep getting angrier at it!

    I would definitely recommend the other books PD James has written if you're in the mood for a mystery novel, they're very well written and the stories never disappoint!

    And I was just thinking about rereading Sense and Sensibility-love that book!

  4. Got it for Christmas! Had never read P.D. James before, but I LOVE Austen.

    I liked the story, but found it to be an odd mix of genres. I was expecting a fast-paced "whodunit", but it was slow. In the end, I felt James was just trying to match the somewhat slower pace of the Austen novels.

    SPOILER ALERT! I was disappointed that Wickham wasn't the one who was murdered. HA!

    It was also weird to read about bad things happening in my magical little fictional world of perfect characters and "perfect marriages". Kind of disturbing. At the end of P&P, Darcy and Elizabeth are supposed to live happily ever after. The end. Then this murder happens on their property.

    Anyhow, good to read someone else's perspective!



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