Generally speaking, I think that writing sequels to much-beloved works of fiction by long-dead authors is ill-advised. The murder mystery angle in this follow up to Pride and Prejudice, however, made for a fun read. P.D. James is also a talented enough author that she can pull off a good Jane Austen imitation. It’s a little hard to picture Mr. Darcy as a man in touch with his emotions, but maybe that’s just the 21st-century interpretation of a 19th-century romantic hero.
This story is set six years after Elizabeth and Darcy’s wedding, and the couple is suitably blissful. A mysterious death on the estate, coupled with the reappearance of the always troublesome Wickham, creates unrest for both the family and staff of Pemberley. Nothing, however, can ruffle the rock-solid marriage. I can’t help thinking that had Jane Austen written this novel, she would have raised at least the suspicion that the lovers would come desperately close to the brink of breakup. Without actually shoving us over that precipice, of course. But this book remains faithful to the situation at the end of the earlier novel – characters act just as they did on the final pages of Pride and Prejudice, and there is no change of heart or awakening of feeling that could offend Austen enthusiasts.
I like this kind of murder mystery. There is very little blood or violence, and the suspense lies purely in discovering who did what to whom. There is no heart-palpitating danger to our heroes, and no hard-bitten loner detective with a brutal back story. How civilized! P.D. James has always been a favorite of mine in a genre I generally avoid, and her status remains unchanged after this enjoyable book.