Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James: Review

Yes, another Pride and Prejudice fan fiction novel. If only Jane Austen were alive to rake in the royalties. But wait! What is this? Written by P.D. James! Well, now, that's different.

The night before the famous Lady Anne's Ball (now hosted by the present Darcys, Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth) a hired coach tumbles into the drive and Lydia Wickam rushes out. Barely coherent, she babbles on about shots being fired and how Wickam is surely dead. The Darcys get more sense from the coachman: Wickam and his friend Denny barrelled off into the woods. Shots were heard, then Mrs Wickam went into hysterics. 

Darcy, a young lawyer friend, and Colonel FItzwilliam (just returned from a ride) form a search party, prepared for the worst but hoping for the best. What they find is Denny dead and Wickam hovering over the body, crying and wailing that he's killed his only friend. Before long, the law comes for Wickam and he's on trial for his life.

Death Comes to Pemberley could be retitled: Law & Order, Pemberley Unit. This audiobook just needed that iconic Bong! Bong! for every scene change. I wasn't thrilled by the book. There was a lot of set up before the story really began. I didn't mind most of that actually. It was fun hearing what the neighbours thought of the Darcy romance and what happened to the characters after the marriage. After Denny's body is found, the story takes a turn. Elizabeth is hardly in it after this. Darcy takes over the show. Not that he does much more than observe the courtroom drama.

James sticks close to that Regency style of writing but it was repetitive. A couple of times I thought, "Didn't I already hear this?" and that Epilogue was tedious. As for the characters, Colonel Fitzwilliam has turned into an arrogant douche nozzle. Lydia is the most annoying person the world but I couldn't believe she could be as bad as she is here. The Darcys are as dull as dirt.

I just went back to Goodreads and rated it lower while writing this as I now realize how disappointed I was by Death Comes to Pemberley. I've never read any P.D. James but I suspect she has done better. Maybe my hopes were too high.

About the Audio: The performance from Rosalyn Landor is the best part of the story. Her voices and accents were very entertaining.





  1. This one came up on the library list and I put it on hold, but after reading several reviews similar to this one, I've taken it off hold...

  2. Fan fiction is such an interesting thing. It often seems to come up short. But this does sound interesting!

  3. The only thing by her that I've read if The Children of Men which is not like the rest of her work. I think she's one of those workshorse authors, who keep on producing books year after year, all at at least a certain level of quality, but none of them masterpieces.

    I thought the movie version of Children of Men was much better by the way.

  4. I probably won't read it, but I LOVE the cover!

  5. I'm not sure how I feel about P. D. James writing an Austen spin-off.

  6. "Well, now, that's different." - my famous last words before picking up Colleen McCullough's The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet.

    I've seen a lot of reviews of Death Comes.. lately and many mixed feelings. I'm still curious to find out by myself, as soon as the paperback comes out.

  7. I thought I might try this but have seen too many bad reviews. I'll stick with my policy of avoiding all Jane knock-offs

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  9. Amanda- I saw the negative reviews too but thought I'd give it a try.

    Col- Maybe you'll like it. Give it a try!

    CB- That would explain a lot. I saw Children of Men and heard the book is quite different. I liked the movie so I haven't read it.

    Andi- It is a great cover.

    Kathy- Yeah, it's a weird idea.

    Alex- I'm a sucker for a good Austen gimmick.

    bookmagic- It's very rare that anyone can pull it off.

  10. Oh, bummer! I thought this one might be good based on the review in the NYT. I may still pick it up, but will stem my enthusiasm, especially if Darcy and Elizabeth barely even interact!

    That said, excellent use of the term douche nozzle!

  11. I just finished reading this a couple of nights ago. I was rather disappointed myself. When I began analyzing why I felt that way, I realized that if James had written it to my specifications, she would not have been true either to the times or to Austen. Although well-written, I much prefer her books set in the present day. Now those are excellent!

  12. Law and Order: Pemberley Unit! YES!

    "The criminal justice system is separated into two separate and universally acknowledged groups..."


  13. I was kind of looking forward to this book, just because I recently read a short story by PD James and really liked it. And while I've never really tried an Austen "sequel" this appealed to me since it was PD James. Sounds so disappointing!


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