|P. D. James is a renowned British mystery writer with a long list of works to her credit. Death Comes to Pemberley is her answer to that centuries-long question: what happened to Darcy and Elizabeth after the conclusion of Pride and Prejudice?
Following a prologue that reintroduces the characters and events of Jane Austen's beloved novel, Death Comes to Pemberley begins the 14th of October 1803. Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy have been married for six years and are the parents of two boys. The Bingleys, their good friends and Elizabeth's sister, are near neighbors and the parents of a son and daughter. Elizabeth is enjoying her situation and "the privileges that adhered to Mrs. Darcy of Pemberley."
All the residents of Pemberley are anticipating a major event of the year: Lady Anne's Ball, named for Darcy's mother. On the eve of the ball, Darcy and Elizabeth observe a coach careening down the drive. When the coach reaches the door, an hysterical Lydia Wickham tumbles out. She says that Wickham is dead, Denny has shot him.
A short time later Darcy and his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam (who is now the heir to the earldom following the death of his older brother) find Wickham, drunk, crouched over Denny's body. "He's dead! Oh God, Denny's dead! He was my friend, my only friend, and I've killed him! I've killed him! It's my fault!"
Over the course of the book, the truth behind Denny's death will be revealed.
There are two additional subplots: Georgiana's choice between two suitors and Darcy's discomfort over how marriage to Elizabeth has brought his long-time nemesis Wickham into a family relationship.
Considering P. D. James' bona fides, there is one surprising anachronism. Shortly after Denny ran into the woods, he fired his pistol multiple times. Prior to the invention of the revolver in 1818, all handguns were single-shot muzzleloaders. Short of carrying several loaded pistols on his person (which surely would have been mentioned in the narrative), Denny could not have fired more than one shot.
Multiple authors have attempted to continue the characters and narrative of Pride and Prejudice. Most have been glaring failures. Death Comes to Pemberley is more a spin-off than a sequel; the plot takes a different direction than the original work. Because it doesn't try to continue Austen's story, it's more successful than many other attempts. Readers who have loved Pride and Prejudice will be pleased to revisit the characters and setting; readers who are fans of P. D. James are similarly unlikely to be disappointed.