Death Comes to Pemberley, and It is Pretty Dull

 Death Comes to Pemberley. P.D. James. Knopf. 291 pages. $25.95

I got this book for Christmas, and while I might not have chosen it myself, I was excited to read it.

This Guardian article does a funny and accurate job of summing up what’s wrong with the novel.  The fact that Elizabeth is no longer sharp and funny, but dutiful and boring, is a problem.  The fact that she and Darcy never spend any time together is a problem.  The fact that the mystery is not sufficiently mysterious is a problem.  The fact that huge chunks of the novel are taken up with rehearsing the original or rehashing the facts of the mystery over and over is a problem, too.

But the main problem I had was this: no one actually solves the mystery.  No one even tries to.  The truth is revealed.  Confessions are made.  Secrets are disclosed.  But that is not the same thing, and it is not satisfying.

I read mystery novels to find out whodunit (and why and how), so I kept reading this one to the end.  But I also read mystery novels to watch the brilliant or absent-minded or eccentric detectives solve the mystery.  Where was the Hercule Poirot / Miss Marple / Lord Peter / insert your favorite here?

The answer, of course, is nowhere, because it is 1803.  And in 1803, there is not even a police force, so this is basically a police procedural before police, as my wise friend Sarah put it (she has a PhD now, so listen to her).  And really, what is the point of that?

So: if you want to know more about the inner workings of Darcy’s mind, or about the further adventures of Wickham, Lydia, Georgiana, and Denny (poor Denny), or if you want a few sly references to Persuasion and Emma, this is the book for you.  If you want more Austen for Austen’s sake . . . well, have you ever read Persuasion?

The cutest Elizabeth Bennet you ever did see. Click the photo for more info!



Filed under Book Report

3 responses to “Death Comes to Pemberley, and It is Pretty Dull

  1. I’m on the waiting list for that…but not so excited now. I did get 6 books out of the library yesterday, but instead of picking up one of the mysteries, stayed up late with Bossypants instead,
    which was fun.


  2. Thanks for posting this. I had considered downloading it and was on the fence. I might put some others in front of it now. I like mysteries, but I’m more interested in the “Austen-ness” of Austen. Maybe this would appeal to me still. However, if there are few Lizzy/Darcy scenes, that curbs my enthusiasm a bit. Having read all six of her published/finished works, I’m without new material. Still, I could re-read “Persuasion” with but a little prompting. Good review!


    • Well, it might! It is a little bit fun to check in on these characters six years later, although they are considerably duller than they were before. Miss Austen just wraps things up so tidily, it’s hard to imagine future adventures for them.

      I must admit I still have not made it through Mansfield Park. Not my cup of tea. I suppose I should give it another go?


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