It was pretty much a given that as soon as I saw this book at the shops over the weekend that it was coming home with me - I was looking for something light and comforting in the reading department and my Jane Austen obsession hadn't been fed in quite a while.
Death Comes To Pemberley is set in 1803, six years after the end of Pride and Prejudice and the double wedding of Darcy and Elizabeth and Jane and Bingley. The two couples live not far from each other in their rambling, magnificent estates and when the book starts preparations are under way for the annual ball at Pemberley. The book scans the main characters that are well know to Austen's readers and introduces a few new ones who will become more prominent in this sequel.
In her author's note at the start of the book P.D. James writes:
I owe an apology to the shade of Jane Austen for involving her beloved Elizabeth in the trauma of a murder investigation....
No doubt she would have replied to my apology by saying that, had she wished to dwell on such odious subjects, she would have written this story herself, and done it better.
After finishing the book there is no doubt in my mind that Austen herself would have done a far better job - but I wonder if she would have wanted to attempt it? I have not read any of P.D.James's non-Austen related crime novels so I admit I have nothing to really compare her work to - as I don't think it is fair to compare her to Austen herself.
The story starts well enough, the scene is set, the tension is built and the crime occurs. For me there was never really any element of mystery to the plot - I had taken a pretty good guess at what was going on in the story very early on and as it turns out I was spot on in my guesses. The development of Austen's original characters was threadbare and one dimensional - I never really thought I was reading about Austen's characters, their names were merely being used. All in all this book was a little disappointing - and a reminder that only Austen can truly pull off an Austen story.