Short and Sweet Sundays: Death Comes to Pembereley by P.D. James

Sundays are a day of rest. So in honor of this one day of the week when I can legitimately loaf around in my Garfield jammies in front of the DVR, I bring you this new feature that I like to call “Short and Sweet Sundays.” This is a fun way for me to write up a quick and dirty book blog without getting too overambitious.

The gist: Happily married and blessed with two perfect children, the Darcys are the picture of domestic bliss. But all is threatened when the Darcy’s and their dinner guests see a runaway chaise barreling toward the front door on a dark and stormy night. Lo and behold, Elizabeth’s estranged sister, Lydia, topples out of the coach screaming that her husband has been murdered.  Colonel Fitzwilliam (a pompous family friend and relative) and Darcy go to investigate in Pemberley’s wild woods and find the body of Wickham’s friend, Captain Denny. They also find Wickham covered in blood screaming, “He’s dead – my one and only friend is dead and it’s my fault!”

Anyone who’s read Pride and Prejudice knows Whickham is a gold-digging scoundrel, but could he really be capable of cold-blooded murder? What caused Captain Denny to run deep into the Pemberley woods on a cold, blustery night? And Why did Colonel Fitzwilliam suddenly decide to take a solitary late night ride the night of the murder?

The pros: P.D. James clearly knows how to write historical fiction. She expertly captures the stodgy language and the genteel English mannerisms.  She clearly did her homework on old timey police work, which can be interesting for those who like procedural thrillers. And – oh my god – this author is 91 years old! I give her mad props for maintaining a spot on the New York Times bestsellers list.

The cons: Let me start off by saying that I am by no means a Jane Austen purist. That said, I have to admit I had quite a few hangups with this mystery. For one, it didn’t feel like a mystery at all – a courtroom drama perhaps – but not a classic whodunit.  I was expecting our beloved Elizabeth Darcy to put on her gumshoes and crack the case, yet she barely had a role in this book at all. The inquest was tedious. Plus I had to force myself to concentrate on all the long-winded descriptions of characters and convoluted backstories.  Listening to this on audiobook proved to be a big challenge!

Thoughts on character development:  Those devoted to Jane Austen would probably agree that Elizabeth Darcy is one of the most dynamic female leads in literary history. She’s beautiful, smart, sharp-tongued and fiercely independent. Her love-hate relationship with Darcy in Pride and Prejudice had hopeless romantics like me totally enthralled. But in this book, she’ a shadow of the girl she once was. In fact, she’s dull.  Rather than speaking her mind and taking risks to find the killer, she spends her time fretting about appearances and making sure the Pemberley Estate is in order. Boring!

Why I chose this book: I seem to be going through a Jane Austen phase, so the timing of a post-Pride and Prejudice mystery couldn’t have been better. Plus the cover is really cool!

This book is best paired with: A very quiet room and a spot of peppermint tea.

Would I read another book by this author?
Eh…probably not.

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge!

I have to admit that I’ve never been a history buff. But ever since I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I’ve been obsessed with stories set in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. In this social media-obsessed age, my brain is constantly on the fritz from information overload! So maybe that’s why I like to transport myself to a time when people read by candlelight, wrote letters (not texts or tweets!) with quill pens and visited with friends around a crackling fire. Of course, I could do without the whole dowry thing and the rib-crunching corsets. But aside from the patriarchal restrictions and lack of vaccines for nasty diseases, those days sure seem like a nice break from our fast-paced, technology-driven society! So when I came across this fun little Historical Fiction Reading Challenge, hosted by Historical Tapestry, I decided to just get crazy and join in on the fun! As you can see, I don’t like my historical fiction straight up. I need vampires, ghosts, murder and mayhem thrown into the mix in order to stay glued to the page.

I think I’m going to play it safe and shoot for level three (Struggling the Addiction: 10 books). I have until the end of December to complete the challenge! Here are the first five books on my list:

  • Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
  • Jane and the Ghosts of Netley by Stephanie Barron
  • The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
  • Dracula in Love by Karen Essex
  • Wuthering Bites by Sarah Gray