Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
While I am a huge mystery fan, I had never really read anything by P.D. James. I had heard of this book when it came out, but I wasn’t sure if it would be a good read.
However, as I have heard people raving about it and the TV series; and I found it at the library book sale for 25¢, I decided to buy it and read it.
I didn’t really care for the book
Why you may ask, well let’s just read and you will see.
So the book begins with a quick summary of Pride and Prejudice, most likely for those who have not read the books. Although I’m not quite sure why they would be reading this if they haven’t read Pride & Prejudice to begin with.
Since the end of the novel Mary has married a vicar and is now Mrs. Theodore Hopkins; while Kitty remains unmarried.
Years have passed since Austen’s novel ended and now Elizabeth is the mother of two adorable boys and has found her place as lady of the manor.
It is the day before the Lady Anne’s ball and Elizabeth has been busy preparing the plans and making sure that everything is being done right.
Meanwhile Colonel Fitzwilliam has gone through many changes since P&P. His older brother died, leaving him the heir and gaining the title of Viscount Hartlep. He is looking to marry and looking at Georgiana as his future bride. Only one problem, she wants to marry lawyer Henry Alveston.
I actually never liked Henry. I thought he would have made a great villain as he seemed off to me…
But I guess James didn’t want to do that.
The Bingleys have left Netherfield as they don’t care to be that close to Mrs. Bennet. Instead they moved to Highmarten which is much closer to the Darcys. They have just arrived for the ball as well.
Everything seems to be going as planned, but a storm is brewing outside. This brings unease that cannot be explained to the guests and hosts.
We then pause from the house to the view of the butler, Bidwell Thomas. He gives us reader a background of the woods surrounding the house and cottage where he resides. The cottage Bidwell resides in was built by Mr. Darcy’s grandfather who lived there with his dog. When his dog became too old and sick, he shot him and himself.
That was a weird, dark twisted branch in the Darcy tree.
Why would James include something like that? What is it’s purpose? We see Darcy has some mental illness in his background, I guess.
Darcy’s father restored the cottage and gave it to the butler’s family. Besides the death of that Darcy, the wood is claimed to be haunted when a poacher was hanged, even though Mr. Darcy tried to give him leniency, and the mother of the accused cursed the entire Darcy line and then hanged herself. Now there is a superstition of a ghost living in the woods.
What I don’t understand is why go through all that trouble of giving this big complicated and supernatural history but then have no follow through. I thought maybe there would be something about a ghost or someone using it in the murder; but there was nothing. So why waste our times James? Why?
So the butler lives there with his wife, sick son Will, and daughter Louisa. Louisa recently traveled to help her older sister Sarah with their newewst baby, and brought him back so that Will could see it. The newest baby’s name is Georgie. Hmm…what character in this story shares that same name? *Hint, hint* *Wink, wink*
While everyone is relaxing after dinner, Colonel Fitzwilliam takes off for his evening ride. Half an hour later the party is breaking up with everyone going to bed when Darcy sees a coach coming up crazily. He goes outside to find out what is happening, when Lydia comes running out. She scream that Wickham is dead and that Denny killed him.
Now in the previews for Death Comes to Pemberley miniseries, they implied that Darcy was thought to possibly have murdered Wickham. But then when you read the book, Darcy is never implicated as he wasn’t in any situation and Wickham isn’t even dead. False advertising!
Lydia is taken with the women while Darcy interrogates the coachman. Coachman Pratt tells him that he was to drop Lydia at the house, the men off at King’s Arms in Lambton, and then return the coach. When halfway through the woodland Captain Denny stopped the coach, jumped out and shouted that he was done with Wickham. Mr. Wickham ran after him to come back, Lydia yelling at both of them to return. Then the coachman and Lydia heard shots. Lydia started screaming murder and ordered the coach to go straight to Pemberley.
They start making arrangements and arming the search party. As they head out they meet a returning Colonel Fitzwilliam.
As they head up, Colonel takes control of the situation and splits the group up.
Darcy looks around and starts talking about him and nature being one. Really? I can’t see Darcy waxing so romantically and poetically in a situation like this.
We also get the tidbit that his grandfather (who sounds crazy to me and makes me think those Darcy’s shouldn’t have been so proud) asked to be buried with his dog in the woods; but the family refused. His spirit supposedly is roaming the woods.
So once again we get a hint at the supernatural or something, with no follow through. Why even bother to set something like that up?
They reach the cottage and the colonel is the only one to enter it. Odd. Why wouldn’t he allow others to go inside, what is he trying to hide or keep from the others?
As they continue in the woods they discover the body of Denny. He is lying on his back, face caked in blood. Wickham is kneeling over him; bloody and screaming that Denny is dead and it was his fault, he killed him.
They carry the two back to Pemberly.
Darcy travels to Sir Selwyn Hardcastle who reviews cases such as this and makes the final judgement. He and Darcy don’t see eye to eye, but everything must be done by the book. As Wickham is his brother-in-law, Darcy can’t oversee the investigation.
The next day finds Lydia furious, not at her husband, but at Elizabeth, If only the Darcys had received them then they would have arrived the next day, not with Lydia trying to coax her way in.
Georgina and Elizabeth have a heart to heart as Elizabeth is worried about Georgina with the close proximity to Wickham. Georgina reveals that she is fine, and that she has told Henry about her past.
See here is where I thought that the book would have been more interesting if it turned out Henry was the murderer as he lied about his past to try and get to Georgina’s inheritance. With him attacking Wickham as he knows too much and accidentally killing Denny. Or Colonel Fitzwilliam being the murderer. But no, James decided to not go down that path.
There is an inquest and Wickham is to go on trial, although there is quite a few holes in the case.
Meanwhile the Darcy’s visit sick Will and bring the family things to help them. They try and convince them to move to the manor where they can recieve better care; but the family refuses.
The Darcys and Bingleys have been aiding the Wickhams; providing Wickham with items he requests to help his time in jail and the Bingleys opening their home to Lydia. Darcy is very unhappy about he situation and also with the fact that he will have to support the two until Wickham can find a job, having been fired by Sir Walter Elliot (characters from Jane Austen’s Persuasion).
The day of the inquest arrives. All the Darcys and Bingleys have been cleared as they all alibi each other. A stone was found that is believed to be the murder weapon, but no incriminating marks were found on it so there is no definite proof. After all statements are given, the coachman’s being the weightiest, they decide to hold Wickham and put him on trial.
Christmas is approaching, and Darcy declares that the trial is not to be talked of, instead having everyone focus on the upcoming holiday.
They give food to the poorer parishioners, have a few dinner parties; and Wickham is transferred to London. Meanwhile the Butler’s Georgie gets sent home to his mother and Louisa and Will are happier; but the trial looms closer and closer.
Now as they keep mentioning the Butler’s family, you just know they are connected somehow to this murder. Otherwise why would James focus on them when the house is full of potential suspects? And of course Wickham well set up as the killer.
The day of the trial arrives. At the trial Darcy spots a familiar face, Mrs. Younge, Wickham’s partner in crime and Georgian’s old companion. The same Mrs. Younge that aided in the elopement.
Everyone shares their testimony, including Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam. Things look pretty grim.
But then it is time for Wickham to give his testimony and be questioned. As we know, Wickham is charming and manipulative. He says that he said he killed him, as he feels it is his fault Denny is dead, as his life was his responsibility since he was traveling with Wickham. He says that he drank too much and was chasing the real murderer when he passed put. He points out that the weapon is missing, and there is no motive for Wickham to kill him; therefore he could not have done it.
The jury leave to discuss.
When the trial reconvenes they declare Wickham as guilty. Wickham scream that he didn’t do it, but it’s too late for him. Mrs. Younge runs out of the courtroom after the verdict, with Darcy following to speak to her, but she gets run over by a coach and dies. Did she kill herself? Or was it an accident?
But then to everyone’s shock a confession is asked to be added to evidence. It was brought by the country doctor and is the confession of the sickly Will, the Darcys’ butler’s son.
Will killed Denny. You see Louisa had been with her sister taking care of her children, when she was assaulted by Wickham. She became pregnant and Georgie was hers, named after Wickham. When it was revealed that Wickham could not marry Louisa, as he was already married, she came home with the baby; pretending it was her nephew. When Will saw the officer in the woods, he thought he was Wickham and killed him to protect his family. Unfortunately he killed the wrong person and could not allow him to go to prison for something he did not do.
Wickham is discharged as witnesses prove that Will did write the confession and that he meant it.
The reason why Colonel Fitzwilliam left to go on his ride was that he was approached by Mrs. Younge to try and help her adopt the boy as she loved Wickham and wanted a piece of him near.
Mr. Wickham gets approached by a minister he met while in prison who offers him job on a horse farm in the United States. He and Lydia travel there. Louisa marries her old beau and everything turns out well.
Well I thought it was kind of boring.
It was nowhere as great as the critics claimed it to be, and I’m sorry for those who love P.D. James and thinks she is fantastic but I just found it to be an all-around dud.
There was no mystery, no challenge, no nothing! I hated it! And why did she keep bringing up the supernatural when it had nothing to do with it in the end!
If you really like the idea of a Darcy and Elizabeth mystery, you should check out Pride & Prescience (Or a Truth Universally Acknowledged).
Now will the miniseries be as horrible? We shall see.
For more Jane Austen mysteries, you should check out Pride & Prescience (Or a Truth Universally Acknowledged)
For more books based on Jane Austen’s work, go to The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy
For more Pride & Prejudice, go to Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose: Superbowl 50
For more Pride & Prejudice variations, go to Happy Birthday Pride & Prejudice