The last book I read in 100 words: Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

by Stephen Tall on January 16, 2012

Death Comes to Pemberley, P.D. James

I really wanted to love this book. What could be better than the combination of an homage to Jane Austen’s biting Pride and Prejudice as penned by the magisterial crime writer PD James? And the thing is it’s not actually bad. The writing is Austen-esque, the murder mystery is intriguing, the ends are wrapped-up.

But there is a gaping chasm in Death Comes to Pemberley where its soul should be. The protagonists, Mr and Mrs Darcy, take centre-stage, yet — James having presumably judged they wouldn’t be credible suspects, and so having given them cast-iron alibis — they are left as little more than spectators uttering Downton-bland observations. Instead, it is the least sympathetic bit-part characters around whom the plot revolves, but without the nuance or back-story to care much for their fates. Nor is there much wit on display, at least if you discount James’s shoe-horned and dig at the European courts.

Unusually for Amazon, there is a very perceptive reader review here, the last line of which is apt:

For a real Jane Austen fan, this book is like a scratchy jumper. You slip into it for the warmth, but when you wear it you can’t wait to pull it off again.