It’s the eve of the Lady Anne’s Ball at Pemberley, and Elizabeth is making sure everything is perfect. As the family an guests retire to bed, the quiet is broken by a frantic carriage at the door. It is Lydia, and she’s screaming about murder. When Darcy goes to investigate, he finds Wickham standing over the body of his friend Denny and wailing that it’s “his fault”. When Wickham is put on trial for Denny’s murder, Darcy and Elizabeth must attempt to untangle the mystery and prove that he is innocent to save the family honour. Even if they’re not sure whether he is or not.
PD James is quite a well-known mystery writer, so it’s not a surprise that the plot is tight and tidy. No plot holes here! Everything makes sense and there aren’t any weird diversions that so many other P&P writers seem to indulge in. It does go into some detail about the life of a particular family living at Pemberley, but this makes sense by the end of the story, and is worked in neatly. I really have no problems with the plot, other than more of it than I would like was told via letter. It sort of cut out the excitement of the mystery when we have to stop the action to read a letter to figure out what’s going on.
One thing I really appreciated about the plot was that it didn’t rehash the plot of P&P, like so many of these do. The problem here isn’t that Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship is on the rocks, the problem is that Wickham is on trial for murder. There seems to be a trend with these kinds of books to insist that Darcy has fallen back into his old ways, and didn’t really learn a lesson in P&P, and now that he and Lizzy are married he’s going to be a proud, cold jerk again. No, people learn lessons and grow all the time. They can have conflict, sure, but just not the same conflict. This book, mercifully, didn’t fall into that trap. . Darcy in this story is a loving husband and father, and deeply devoted to Lizzy. While he does muse that his marriage to her has brought Wickham back into his family circle, he can’t bring himself to regret it, because he and Lizzy are so happy
I really enjoyed this book. All the characters are, mercifully, in character. Elizabeth, Darcy, Jane, Wickham, they all act like they should. Georgiana even gets expanded, which isn’t hard to do, considering she’s in the original story for exactly two seconds. It’s been six years after the original plot, so Georgiana is 21 now, a grown lady rather than an impressionable young girl. Of course she would have grown up a little. The only character I have a quibble with is Lydia. She’s a little too screechy and annoying. Lydia in P&P is mostly thoughtless and impulsive, rather than straight up whiny. In this story, she mostly has constant hysterics, and makes snide comments at Lizzy. I get Lydia’s not very smart, but surely if Lizzy was giving her money she wouldn’t be as mean to her? Lydia, if nothing else, is calculating. Col. Fitzwilliam fell a little flat, too. I don’t know why it was necessary to give him a title even though he’s a second son, as it only made the names confusing. As a lord, he would be called by his title, not his military designation, so although the family still called him Col. Fitzwilliam, everyone else called him Viscount Hartlep, and that made it confusing as to who we were talking about. Occasionally he got called Col the Viscount Hartlep, which is just silly. I know the author was trying to make sure the readers knew who she was talking about, but compounding the names doesn’t make it better.
One thing, though. At the beginning of the book, there was a lot of recapping the events of P&P. I’m not sure this is how actual couples talk to each other, but there’s a whole chapter where Darcy is like, “Do you remember the time I was proud and you were prejudiced?” There’s really no need to go over the plot of P&P, and this goes for all intertexts in general. You can be assured that people who are reading this book are intimately familiar with P&P, and probably are fanatics like me. Otherwise why would you pick up this book in the first place? It’s best, in my opinion, to just assume your audience knows the original story, and to move on from there with that assumption. Although references back to the events of the original are fine, and of course people do reference their past and are informed by it, there’s no need to have whole conversations where characters remind the reader of what happened last book. If I wanted to read P&P, I would read that, not this.
Besides those few chapters at the beginning, the rest of the story is engaging and exciting. The characters are good and the mystery draws you in. After so many crummy post-P&P books, this one is actually believable and worth taking the time to read.