From The Telegraph:
Q What do you get if you cross a Jane Austen novel with a crime thriller? A The latest fiction from PD James- 'Death Comes to Pemberley'. Here the distinguished novelist explains why she decided to combine her two literary passions to produce a sequel which opens with a brutal murder at Pemberley.
A. Like many – probably most – novelists, I am happiest when plotting and planning or writing a new book, and the period in between, once the excitement of the publication is over, is usually spent considering what to write next. The prospect of becoming 90 was a time of important decision-making, since I had become increasingly aware that neither years nor creative energy last forever. After the publication of my latest Dalgliesh story, The Private Patient, in 2008, I decided that I could be self-indulgent and turn to an idea that had been in my mind for some time: to combine my two lifelong enthusiasms, namely for writing detective fiction and for the novels of Jane Austen, by setting my next book in Pemberley. My own feeling about sequels is ambivalent, largely because the greatest writing pleasure for me is in the creation of original characters, and I have never been tempted to take over another writer’s people or world, but I can well understand the attraction of continuing the story of Elizabeth and Darcy. Austen’s characters take such a hold on our imagination that the wish to know more of them is irresistible, and it is perhaps not surprising that there have been more than 70 sequels to Austen’s novels.
Pride and Prejudice, which was originally titled First Impressions, was written between October 1796 and August 1797. Austen’s father wrote to a London bookseller, Thomas Cadell, to ask if he had any interest in seeing the manuscript, but he declined by return of post. It was in 1811 and 1812 that Austen revised the novel, making it shorter, and it was published in 1813 under the title Pride and Prejudice. It is frustrating that the original manuscript has not been discovered as it would have been fascinating to see what portions were excised and which retained and possibly extended. In Death Comes to Pemberley, I have chosen the earlier date of 1797 for the marriages both of Elizabeth and her older sister Jane, and the book begins in 1803 when Elizabeth and Darcy have been happily together for six years and are preparing for the annual autumn ball which will take place the next evening. With their guests, which include Jane and her husband Bingley, they have been enjoying an informal family dinner followed by music and are preparing to retire for the night when Darcy sees from the window a chaise being driven at speed down the road from the wild woodlands. When the galloping horses have been pulled to a standstill, Lydia Wickham, Elizabeth’s youngest sister, almost falls from the chaise, hysterically screaming that her husband has been murdered. Darcy organises a search party and, with the discovery of a blood-smeared corpse in the woodlands, the peace both of the Darcys and of Pemberley is shattered as the family becomes involved in a murder investigation.