Monday, January 16, 2012

James and Austen is a perfect pairing

Book 8: Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

A lot of people who would enjoy this book may well pass it by.

Some because they are unfamiliar with P.D. James, a grandmaster of the British mystery.

Others because they have had their fill of all the Jane Austen knock-offs.  The tipping points may have been when Pride and Prejudice and Zombies made its appearance on bookstore shelves. 

Granted, that’s a bit much, but Death Comes to Pemberley is a perfect pairing.

James is a superb writer. She’s a literary descendant of Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. A better, more muscular writer than either, in her books James has complete command over the plot, characters and setting.  

And more than a few mystery writers today have studied her work.  She specializes in littering her stories with little clues that lead to the guilty party, but she’s so skillful it doesn’t all come together until the denouement. 
As for Miss Austen – she occupies a rarefied pantheon of literary giants.  People have been reading and enjoying her books for two centuries now.  She’s definitely stood the test of time.

I’m not an Austenphile. I haven’t read all her books, but I admire the ones I have read. (And I do enjoy those lush period-piece movies based on her work.) And this isn’t the book Austen would have written if she had penned a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, but . . . 

Death Comes to Pemberley works – at every level.  It’s a satisfying whodunit that also works as the next chapter (literally) in the lives of the characters who inhabit Pride and Prejudice.

James is true to the spirit of Jane Austen.  Death Comes to Pemberley is James’ homage to Austen; it’s one great British writer paying her respect to another, greater author.

Like chocolate and wine, James and Austen is a pairing for the ages.

1 comment:

  1. P.D. James has done a wonderful job of deepening and adding to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. She always stays impeccably true to the master's style and intentions, never trying to impose her own will on the characters already known and beloved by so many readers. Instead she furthers the story, letting the reader see Darcy's emotions over his conflict with Wickham, the little imperfections in his relationship with Georgiana that make Darcy seem more human, and Elizabeth's small, quiet guilt that she saddled Darcy with her inferior family when she married him. Death Comes to Pemberley truly makes you feel that all your favorite characters have been restored and allowed to live a little longer