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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Death Comes to Pemberley

Famed mystery writer P.D. James tries her hand at a sequel to a Jane Austen classic, Pride and Prejudice. In this novel, characters Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy have been married for six years, have two sons and are living a peaceful, productive life at the Darcy estate Pemberley. On the eve of the annual autumn ball, chaos erupts with the arrival of a carriage containing Lydia, Elizabeth’s disgraced sister who with her husband, the ne’er do well Wickham, have been banned from Pemberley. A distraught Lydia is screaming that her husband has been murdered. She must be sedated before Darcy and the others can investigate what has happened. They discover that fortunately Wickham is alive but unfortunately his friend Captain Denny has been murdered; and at first blush it seems that Wickham is the murderer. With a coroner’s inquest and a trial immediately proceeding, the truth comes out and Wickham is exonerated. A well-crafted murder mystery is resolved and a visit to the world of Jane Austen enjoyed through the efforts of the nonagenarian P.D. James.

The Forgotten Garden: A Novel

Written by Kate Morton, this is the story of Nell; a little girl who is abandoned on an ocean liner bound to Australia from England and is raised by an Australian dock master and his wife as their own. Not until her twenty-first birthday does she find out the truth, and the force of this knowledge changes her whole life. As she grows older, Nell begins to put the puzzle pieces together and plans to travel to England to finally learn the truth of her origins. But fate intervenes when her daughter arrives with Nell’s granddaughter Cassandra. Nell postpones her plans forever when she agrees to care for Cassandra. Years later, after Nell’s death, Cassandra is surprised to learn that Nell had purchased a property in Cornwall, England, which she has left to Cassandra. She travels there herself; and finally is able to learn of Nell’s true parentage among the aristocratic Mountrachet family. Cassandra also finds a true love of her own. This combination of family saga and mystery, with a touch of atmospheric charm, is an enjoyable read.