I'm a great fan of Jane Austen, and love a good detective story, so was delighted to get the P. D. James follow-up to Pride and Prejudice, the murder mystery Death Comes to Pemberley for Christmas.
It was quite eerie to start reading it, as I had watched the film adaptation of P and P with Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet just the evening before. It somehow made it particularly easy to immerse myself in the book - and I ought to stress that I'm not a picky traditionalist, so was not in any sense worried about what Ms James would do to the hallowed characters. (As credentials, I love Stephen Moffatt's modern day Sherlock).
Sadly, though, I can only be lukewarm about what I read. If I'm honest, P. D. James is not one of my favourite writers - I find her usual murder mysteries rather stiff and stilted. (In fact the best thing about the Dalgleish stories is the superb theme tune of the TV adaptation.) Although the Austen sequel is cleverly written, it seemed to lack that immense warm humour that is the absolute essence of Jane Austen. Elizabeth is little more than a bit part, rather than the central character. And at least once the author seemed to be using the book as a vehicle for her politics, when bizarrely the characters suddenly start discussing whether there ought to be a right of appeal in a trial (not available at the time), and how this would be absurd as it 'could presumably result in a foreign court trying English cases. And that would be the end of more than our legal system.' Presumably a pointed reference to European interference in UK justice.
Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a bad book. I was interested to read it to the end and enjoyed it. But I simply felt it lacked the energy and brilliance of an Austen, while it was too slow to develop to work as a murder mystery. Still, worth taking a look at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
To cheer you up a bit, here is that excellent theme music: