James began the book with a recap of Pride and Prejudice. I understand why she did this, but it lacked the crisp beginning I have come to expect from P.D. James and left me wondering how many readers would have chosen this book without having some understanding of P&P.
Elizabeth and Darcy are on the eve of hosting a local ball when a hysterical Lydia shows up in the midst of a night-time storm to declare that Denny and Wickham have quarreled and someone has been shot. Investigations and a trial ensue.
I enjoyed going back into the world of Elizabeth and Darcy, but it was a surprisingly tepid world for a story that centered around a murder. Jane Austen lived in a world of carefully considered language and elaborate social conventions, but P&P is not tepid. Elizabeth seems tepid about her children and only manages in one scene to demonstrate much passion for her husband. Darcy is the most fully developed character. He wrestles with his motivations in dealing with Wickham’s murder charge and those insights make him 3D in a largely pleasant but flat world.
Lydia is still a babbling idiot. Wickham is still a handsome bastard. Bingley is almost invisible and Jayne is only slightly more drawn than Elizabeth.
I read an interview with P.D. James, who expressed her hesitation at trying to please Austen fans. I guess we’re just a tough crowd.