It is 1803, six years since Elizabeth and Darcy embarked on their life together at Pemberley, Darcy’s magnificent estate. Their peaceful, orderly world seems almost unassailable. Elizabeth has found her footing as the chatelaine of the great house. They have two fine sons, Fitzwilliam and Charles. Elizabeth’s sister Jane and her husband, Bingley, live nearby; her father visits often; there is optimistic talk about the prospects of marriage for Darcy’s sister Georgiana. And preparations are under way for their much-anticipated annual autumn ball.
Then, on the eve of the ball, the patrician idyll is shattered. A coach careens up the drive carrying Lydia, Elizabeth’s disgraced sister, who with her husband, the very dubious Wickham, has been banned from Pemberley. She stumbles out of the carriage, hysterical, shrieking that Wickham has been murdered. With shocking suddenness, Pemberley is plunged into a frightening mystery.
I chose to read this book for my own reasons. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
This was an interesting book. James did a phenomenal job of mimicking Jane Austen’s voice, which in itself is a feat of greatness, and I was quite pleasantly surprised. I was uncertain, though, why she decided to do a mystery with the characters from Pride and Prejudice. Many of the prominent characters were new, Elizabeth was hardly in it and when she was could just has easily have been any other regency-era wife, and even Darcy (while generally true to his character) could have just as easily been a random gentleman. The only way that the original book really played into this story was the background relationships between the Darcys, Bingleys, and Wickhams. It felt rather unnatural to subject these characters to the questioning and trials of a murder case.
I completely understand why Austen said, “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.”
Even objectively removing myself from my attachment to the characters, the mystery was odd. It used completely original characters (excepting Wickham, of course), and was not something that the reader could have hypothetically solved based on the evidence given in the story. Everything they found regarding the crime was vague, and you had to know a ton of backstory (given to readers at the end of the book as the mystery is solved) to make any sense of it. I felt slightly cheated in that regard, since half the fun of reading a mystery is trying to solve it yourself and see if you got it right. Additionally, the mystery was not terribly engaging. Because it featured characters I cared little about, I had no investment in them. Because I was not able to make my own predictions and hypotheses, I wasn’t able to be involved. The long and short of it is that I really didn’t care who killed Captain Denny.
I must add, though, that the last two chapters and the epilogue did make up for a lot of my disappointment in the overall story. The sweet little interactions between Elizabeth and Darcy were exactly why I read a Pride and Prejudice sequel to begin with, and it was highly satisfactory. And the Emma reference was golden. So there was that.