“Death Comes to Pemberley” by P.D. James

Dana Thompson

I don’t remember when I first read “Pride and Prejudice,” but I do know that I have read it at least six times since. I am a strong believer in the re-read. A well-written book can survive innumerable goings-over without becoming boring or dull; just because you know what happens in the end doesn’t mean that you can’t be surprised on the way there. That said, I tend to have the mysterious ability to forget what happens at the end of nearly every book I read. I’m still not entirely sure what happened at the end of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”

That’s a lie. I know exactly what happened. But there was a time when the whole book blended into a single scene in a forest in which Harry’s running around in a panic, Hermione’s crying, and Ron’s acting like a huge jerkwad and making it all worse. I’m not disrespecting Harry Potter, of course. I’m just saying I may have read it a little too quickly the first time through.

What was I talking about?

Oh yes. Pride and Prejudice. Anyway, in my continued hunger/thirst for more adventures with Elizabeth and Darcy, Younger Me slipped into the dangerous territory of the “rewriting,” the “different perspective,” and––most terrifying of all––the “continuation” of my precious P&P. It’s really amazing how many women (it’s all women, really) take it upon themselves to add their own flavor to Jane Austen’s most celebrated work. Kind of cheeky. Who has the gall to write not one but two novels about the Darcy’s children? Who has the audacity to assume that the most desirable man in all of fiction kept a diary in which he spilled all his most ardent feelings for Elizabeth Bennet against which he struggled in vain?

I don’t remember at the moment, but I do know that I partook heavily of their products. I read them all. The only reason I didn’t read “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” was that I felt it was a travesty and that I would never touch it because I was some sort of purist.

What was I thinking? Purists don’t read “The Exploits & Adventures of Miss Alethea Darcy” TWICE and then think, there better be a sequel. Who am I kidding? I’m too slavish to the story of Elizabeth and Darcy to turn down another rendition. Although I refuse to read “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” Honestly. A zombie thriller?

Image courtesy of Afred A. Knopf Publishers

How about a murder mystery?

“Death Comes to Pemberley,” written by the well-loved mystery writer PD James (another female, for the record), takes the characters of “Pride and Prejudice” a few years after the original novel came to a close and––gasp––kills one of them off! This, of course, throws everyone into a tizzy (did I really just use that word?) as they endeavor to discover who did it and WHY.

It’s probably the best of all the “Pride and Prejudice” retellings, although I have to say that the mystery takes over the story (as I suppose is expected), resulting in the flattening of some beloved characters. Darcy in particular comes across as more crotchety and bossy than thoughtful and brooding. But hey. I’ve learned my lesson. You want mastery, you read the original. You want mystery, you read “Death Comes to Pemberley” by P.D. James.