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Death Comes to Pemberley

Death Comes to PemberleyI wanted to like this more than I did. It was clever and readable, and it certainly held my attention, but it's difficult to mix a comedy of manners in with a murder, particularly when the victim is actually a character one knows so one doesn't feel right laughing about it. Nobody seemed to care that much that the victim was dead (apart from the person accused of killing him, naturally!) except insofar as it would cause scandal, so it would have worked better for me if the victim had been someone previously unknown.

James' writing is good, of course, but she does a better job capturing Austen's style at the beginning and end, where she's liberally borrowing events and even phrases from the original, than in the middle, where it starts to sound more like any other conventional country-house murder. She does draw in several characters from other Austen stories, namely the Knightleys and the Elliots, though it's by reference only and they never actually appear. And Elizabeth does propose answers to several niggling questions from the original (how did Lady Catherine find out that Darcy was intending to propose to Elizabeth, for example?).

The characterizations were decent, though Darcy was painted as a bit too anxious and self-accusatory and the others were rather flat. I thought the ending/wrap-up was a bit of a cop-out too; the explanation was very Victorian cliche and the neat tidying of loose ends was a bit TOO neat. I was left with a fairly strong suspicion that the explanation given was not the true one at all -- I think Colonel Fitzwilliam had a LOT more to do with things than was suggested. I think he was the father of the baby, and had persuaded Denny and Wickham to help him cover it up so as not to endanger his prospects with Georgiana. When Denny refused to go along with it Fitzwilliam killed him, and then he continued to pay Wickham for his silence. But that might just be a mark of James' too-successful planting of a red herring :)

Of course I got a giggle out of the fact that it's basically fan-fic. That always makes me laugh, when I find fan-fic successfully sneaking onto the NYT best-seller list. I've noticed that if you're a big enough author you can get away with writing a novel-length fic and calling it a sequel. Heeee.

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