Well, I slogged my way through the rest of Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James. It remained dull and lifeless throughout its entirety. Even when the murder mystery part got started my enjoyment meter did not budge off zero. Why I kept reading it, I have no idea. I didn’t expect it to get better, though of course I was hoping to be proved wrong. Maybe I kept reading because I paid good money for the book and wanted to add waste of time to waste of money? Or perhaps I just wanted to serve as a warning to others?
If you are a person who regularly reads the Jane Austen spin-off books and genuinely likes them, I suspect you will like Death Comes to Pemberley. If you are among those, like me, who do not like the spin-off books, then stay away from the one. The fact that it is by P.D. James, a very good writer and a fan of Jane Austen, does not save the book.
The book begins six years after Pride and Prejudice ends. Elizabeth and Darcy have two children and no verbal sparring matches. In fact Elizabeth seems to have lost her sharp tongue entirely and become a settled and proper married lady who runs the household at Pemberley with a firm but gentle hand and much good sense. Jane and Bingley live nearby, have a number of children and go on in their happy and easy going Jane and Bingley way. Colonel Fitzwilliam is vying for the hand of Georgiana but she is in love with a newly invented character, Alveston, who is much closer to her own age. Everything goes on in a very proper way with feelings very properly hidden so there is nary a ripple in the very proper pond.
Until Lydia and Wickham show up and Mr. Denny is murdered in the woods of Pemberley and Wickham the apparent murderer. While this ruffles Darcy’s feathers and Elizabeth’s on behalf of Darcy, the pond still manages to stay so calm that the ripple caused by this unexpected event could have merely come from a passing breeze.
When the murderer finally confesses, my reaction was, huh? Followed immediately by, that’s dumb. And then as everything gets sorted out and slotted into place I got mad about something that I don’t believe a particular character would do even as an interesting and creative connection between that character and another was made. But that interesting bit was small and very late in coming and comes nowhere close to making up for the book as a whole.
I suppose Jane Austen spin-offs do two things. One, they indicate how popular Jane Asuten still is even after all these years and hopefully the popularity has introduced even more readers to Austen’s work. Two, these non-Austen books prove time and time again just what a brilliant novelist Austen is because none of the spin-offs can come even close to being a real Jane Austen novel. And unless Jane Austen herself writes a new novel, I will never, ever read another spin-off again.