Death comes to Pemberley

Word count: 223 words

Reading time: less than a minute

Not much of a fan of murder mysteries, I’ve never before read anything by the formidable P.D. James. Ah, but she’s a canny one. Determined to reach people like me, she has borrowed her most recent set and characters from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. How could I possibly resist?

James’ latest mystery, Death Comes to Pemberley, features stroppy Elizabeth Bennet, handsome and brooding Darcy and….a dead body. It’s been 20 years since I read the Austen novel and seven since I saw the movie so I confess I find the long list of characters a bit confusing from time to time. Really, it’s almost enough to make me wish for a playbill.

But I’m impressed by the way that James (an amazing 92 years old) is able to mimic the Austen style. And she even gave me my word for the week: imprecations. Here is the sentence: “He was quieter no but still sobbing; as they reached the last step, he wrestled himself free and, glaring down at Darcy, hurled his final imprecations.”

An imprecation is a spoken curse and the word dates back to the 15th century, from the Latin imprecationem. Normally, I’d encourage writers to use the more common word, curse. But given that the story is set in the early 19th century, I’m prepared to compliment rather than censure P.D. James.