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As a longtime "Jane-ite", I have always considered Jane Austen's work to be sacrosanct and not to be touched by other, lesser writers. I've stayed away from modern attempts to bring Austen's characters and stories - particularly those of "Pride and Prejudice" - to life in sequels. No one, I thought, had the literary "chops" to take Austen's characters and write a competent sequel. Then I heard that PD James, a mystery writer I had long admired, had taken a stab at writing a sequel.

The resulting novel - "Death Comes to Pemberly" - is an awkward combination of mystery and comedy-of-manners and doesn't quite come off. The two genres don't quite come together, even in Ms James' deft hands. Maybe it was the choice of centering the story on George Wickham and a murder he is being tried for having committed. Wickham has never been a particularly interesting character in the original novel; he was the center around which events took place, but I never wanted to know more about what happened to him after the novel ended. And, in fact, that raises a particular question in my mind. Who ARE the characters in "P&P" I would want to read about? I can't think of a single one, actually.

Maybe that's because I figured a long time ago that "Pride and Prejudice" was a completed story. There's a reason an author doesn't write sequels; maybe everything that can be said about a cast of character has already been said. That's what Margaret Mitchell always felt about "Gone With The Wind". And Jane Austen certainly didn't return to any of older books when writing new ones. (In this book, James writes a little about the "Eliot" family").

So what about PD James' book? It seemed like an "adequate" mystery and an "adequate" comedy-of-manners. I've read most of James' back list and I wouldn't put this book near the top of the list. But, on the other hand, sometimes "adequate" can be a good read, which this book is. I'm not sure anyone who isn't familiar with Jane Austen would bother reading it, but for Austen fans, it's a suitable read for a rainy day.
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on January 6, 2012
_Death Comes to Pemberley is a treat for die-hard Austen fans as it reads like one of her works with just enough suspense to keep the reader interested.In some parts was rather slow reading but that too is an Austen characteristic.I found it good entertainment.I would,however,recommend that a reader have some prior knowledge of the works of Jane Austen in order to fully appreciate P.D.James creation.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon December 29, 2011
In "Death Comes to Pemberly," the great P.D. James imagines what happens after the end of Jane Austen's famous novel, "Pride and Prejudice": Elizabeth and Darcy are married, the parents of two young children and the wealthy owners of the Pemberly estate. Elizabeth's sister Jane is married to Bingley and they live not too far away; sister Lydia has married the reprehensible Wickham and they are Not Received at Pemberly due to Wickham's previous behaviour with Darcy's younger sister, Georgiana. All seems settled and quiet, until Lydia appears one night, uninvited, screaming that Wickham has been murdered. Darcy and the other males in the household mount a search and find Wickham very much alive, but his soldier companion, Captain Denny, is quite dead and worse, Wickham (in his cups) keeps stating that "I've killed him" and "it's my fault!" Naturally he is arrested and brought to trial, and Darcy and Elizabeth must try to untangle the complicated situation and find proof of the much-disliked Wickham's innocence.... I hate to confess that I've never read "Pride and Prejudice" (although I've seen films based on it), but I *have* read other novels written in Austen's time and it seems to me that James gets the style perfectly; and her always clever plotting and deep characterizations are up to the mark here too. At 91, this lady is still producing exquisite work; I imagine that those who know Austen's original novel will pick up on nuances that I didn't, but either way, "Death Comes to Pemberly" comes highly recommended.
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on March 11, 2012
This is a whole new twist for P.D.James, though I'm not surprised to find her an Austen-lover. For anyone who knows Pride and Prejudice (the book, not the movie) the first section is bliss. The rest is not quite up to the beginning - as James says, if Austen had written it, she would have done better. But still the rest of the book is well worth reading.
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on January 1, 2015
The language and story was respectful of Austen and brought a continuation of the Pemberly story. Thoroughly enjoyable.
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