October 23, 2017

Death Comes To Pemberly, book and tv series


P. D. James died a year after the first 2013 BBC broadcast of “Death Comes to Pemberly” an adaptation of her best-selling novel of the same name, so this was the last of fifteen books of hers that were made into TV programs or films during her lifetime.

The 2011 mystery novel “Death Comes To Pemberly” features the characters from Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” six years after that novel ends. Darcy and Elizabeth are now married and living with their son on the Pemberly estate. Elizabeth’s estranged sister Olivia arrives suddenly at night with news that her husband George Wickham argued with his best friend Captain Denny who was found dead in the Pemberly woods. Many of the previous Austen characters make appearances, such as Elizabeth’s foolish mother, her wise but weak father, Darcy’s sister Georgiana and his snobbish aunt, Catherine de Bourgh. Phyllis Dorothy (P. D.) James fashions an Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery but adds her expert knowledge of crime detection and psychological insight into her take on the Bennett/Darcy world. If you enjoyed other James books and the Austen classic, this is your cup of tea, preferably with a cat on your lap.

The three-episode BBC television production, a faithful adaptation of the book “Death Comes To Pemberly,” has marvelous scenery and superlative acting going for it. The first episode is a bit confusing until you figure out the relationships between characters. Previous knowledge of the Austen classic will eventually kick in by the middle of the first program. Episodes 2 and 3 are more satisfying as we become more drawn into 19th century England and the dramatic tensions resulting from murder, lies, illegitimate children and a life-threatening trial.

The book and television production make a fitting final chapter in the life of 94-year-old Baroness James of Holland Park, better known as P. D. James.

“Death Comes To Pemberly” is currently streaming on Netflix.

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