I have to admit that some forms of the sequels to Pride and Prejudice just don’t attract me. Zombies and the supernatural do not appeal to me as part of the Austen genre, and some of the mysteries are little better. One mystery that has come out recently, however, struck me as interesting because it is by a well-known mystery writer whose other works I have enjoyed. I refer to Death Comes to Pemberley, by P. D. James.
Most of the characters come directly from Pride and Prejudice, and the initial setting – Lady Anne’s Ball and all the preparations required – is very much in period. There have been some changes, of course in the six years of the Darcys’ marriage. The Darcys have two young sons, Wickham has been a hero in the Irish wars and then quit the Army, and Col. Fitzwilliam’s older brother has died, leaving the Colonel Viscount Hartlep and his father’s heir.
Then on the eve of the ball which Lydia has plotted to attend, Wickham and Denny have left the carriage conveying her, and gunshots are heard in the woods of Pemberley. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam, in response to her frantic entreaties, have found Wickham over Denny’s body, crying out that he is responsible for his friend’s death.
Needless to say, things are not quite as they seem. Darcy is cleared by the circumstances and timing of the murder, as is the lawyer, Henry Alveston, though Col. Fitzwilliam is not. But the clues are well hidden, and the anxiety of the trial is sustained both by the possibility of Wickham’s hanging and by the real uncertainty of what happened, as well as the effect on Elizabeth and Darcy.
All in all, I found this one of the better mystery sequels to Pride and Prejudice.