Despite my love for Jane Austen's novels, I generally avoid modern books that are spinoffs of her legacy. But after I noticed good reviews for "Death Comes to Pemberley," by mystery writer P.D. James, I decided to give it a try.
I'm glad I did.
The book gives an account of what happens to the main characters of Austen's best novel, "Pride and Prejudice," a few years after Darcy's marriage to Elisabeth Bennet. It's a satisfying sequel, and I think most Austen fans will enjoy it.
It's interesting to see how James' effort is both similar to and different from the original. James obviously has paid close attention to Austen's prose, and her own book is filled with many barbs that sound like Austen. The behavior and dialogue of Darcy, Mrs. Darcy, Jane Bingley and so on rang true to me, and I've read "Pride and Prejudice" many times.
James' book focuses much more attention on the servants than Austen did. Her depiction of some of the sordid realities of early 19th-century life is more candid than Austen's.
Austen's novels focus on courtships leading to marriage. There's a minor subplot in "Death Comes to Pemberley" involving the courtship of Darcy's sister, Georgiana Darcy, but the main plot is driven by a murder at Pemberley and the subsequent investigation and trial.
Austen fans who read carefully will enjoy how the book's 91-year-old author also offers updates on some of the main characters in "Persuasion" (my second-favorite Austen novel) and "Emma."
"Death Comes to Pemberley" is available at Sandusky Library and other local CLEVNET libraries as a book, ebook, audiobook and large print book, although you may have to put a hold on your copy and wait for your turn.