Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cozy Mysteriousness with Lizzy and Darcy

As soon as I turned on the audiobook Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James, narrated by Rosalyn Landor, I realized I'd hit a trifecta. Great writing (my first James novel - I'll be checking out all those Adam Dalgliesh  mysteries soon!), narrated by Landor (I just sink into her narration - one sentence and I'm transported to Regency England.), and set in the world of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (I'm one of those Jane fans, prone to rereading everything she wrote, but especially P&P. Plus, obviously, constantly rewatching the BBC movie with Colin Firth.)

So it all began very well. Delightful visitations with beloved characters, a nice imagining of life a few years after Elizabeth and Darcy's marriage, and tensions when Lydia and Wickham show up uninvited, leaving a body in the Pemberley woods in their wake. Wickham is quickly arrested for the murder, and poor Darcy must face heaps of unresolved feelings about the man while maintaining his distance - and his respectable position as magistrate and local VIP. I'm thoroughly impressed with James's structure and her obvious love of Austen, which allows her to create this story while keeping purist snobs like me from throwing up our arms in outrage.

Really, there's only one place right at the end when I felt James had mis-stepped with the whole "Pemberley, six years later" thing. (She had Lizzy and Darcy discuss something that I felt should surely have come up at some point in the previous years.) Otherwise - as a murder mystery, as a detective story, as a chance to see Mr. Bennet's life after his beloved second daughter moves away - this was a completely successful book for me.

And of course, Landor's narration was the icing on the cake. She gave great life to the narrative voice, and positively relished Lydia's hysterics, in particular. Her Jane was sweet and calm, her Elizabeth was patient and wry, and her local magistrate is no one I'd like to have to deal with on a regular basis.

All in all, yum, yum, and triple-yum. My favorite book of the year so far.

(I know it's only January. I've read / listened to thirty books. I'm allowed to declare a definitive favorite.)

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