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Death Comes to PemberleyDeath Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

I must have read a glowing review somewhere that inspired me to pick this up, but I no longer know who to blame. I don’t often read books that sound like Austen fan-fiction, but the beginning felt promising. James takes us through a recap of Pride and Prejudice from an outsider’s point of view, then catches us up on the events of the last six years, which is amusing and manages to entice. Then the mystery plot takes over – murder pollutes the shades of Pemberley! – and before you know it, you want to unravel the clues and find the solution.

Unfortunately, at this point in the game, hooked by the mystery, you realize that James’ prose isn’t nearly as diverting as Austen’s. You realize that she hasn’t done anything amusing or intriguing in terms of character development, and that the characters are still internally rehashing the events of P&P six years later. The mystery is intriguing, but because neither of the Darcys takes an active role in crime-solving, the reader is distanced from the action and is merely a spectator to the action. Indeed, the way the mystery is solved is not at all due to clue hunting or detecting, which really took the fun away from the resolution. By the time the mystery was good and solved, I was so impatient for the story to end that I could barely stand Darcy and Elizabeth’s wrap-up discussion.

I was left wanting to refresh my mind with some actual Austen prose and find some cutting remarks that might apply to James’ pale imitation of style.

Source: my public library

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May 2012

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