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Literature / Death Comes to Pemberley

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Death Comes To Pemberley is a thriller written by P.D. James. It is also a non-official sequel to Pride and Prejudice, which treats themes such as justice in the 19th century and misogyny on a rather interesting way.

Six years after Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet and Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley married, Elizabeth enjoys her bliss, organizes the ball her mother-in-law created so long ago and makes sure everything will be perfect when Lydia, her younger sister, arrives panicked at Pemberley, and spoils everything.

Well, it isn't really her fault, but she heard gunshots in the woods where her husband and his friend were wandering and she is understandably worried. A rescue expedition organized by Mr. Darcy reassures everyone on the state of her husband. He was simply found drunk, cradling his friend's corpse...

In the meantime, Georgiana enjoys a Betty and Veronica love triangle, Fitzwilliam Darcy works on his Guilt Complex and Elizabeth chronicles how so many characters Took a Level in Jerkass between the events of the two books, making them all suspects.

Of course, it could still get worse. Lady Catherine de Bourgh could decide to meddle in this, or Mr Collins to write a letter... Then, the Godzilla Threshold would certainly be hit.

Adapted into a 2013 BBC television film starring Matthew Rhys as Darcy and Anna Maxwell Martin as Elizabeth.

Tropes present in this work:

  • Accidental Murder: In the original novel Will struck a single blow with the poker to Captain Denny's face. Blinded by blood, Denny stumbled backwards and tripped, hitting the back of his head on a gravestone. He only managed to crawl a short distance before this second wound proved fatal.
  • Acquitted Too Late: Narrowly averted. In the film version, Lizzie is told she may be too late even if she does get through the dangers of traveling to Derby alive at night, but thanks to a guide she defies all odds and delivers a written confession that the now-deceased Will killed Captain Denny accidentally, having mistaken him for Louise's rapist, on time for the very judge who had earlier condemned George to the gallows to now order that George be taken down at the last second. Immediately after the rope is removed from his neck, and as he's taken down from the gallows, George watches the other condemned men suffer the very fate from which he had just been spared.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Averted with the characters in the book, who only get Hidden Depths. Played hilariously straight in-universe, with Meryton inhabitants considering Mrs. Bennet as a Diabolical Mastermind, Mr. Darcy as a complete Jerkass, and both Lizzie and Jane as one big Gold Digger family, the first gaining a reputation of Bitch in Sheep's Clothing. A tenant from an inn in Meryton sees Lydia as a Plucky Girl who is adept at Brutal Honesty.
  • And Starring: In the TV version: "With Penelope Keith as Lady Catherine de Bourgh"
  • Babies Ever After: Lizzie and Darcy have two sons, making this a retroactive example from Pride and Prejudice. In the TV version, there is only one son.
  • Betty and Veronica: Georgiana had one of these triangles with Colonel Fitzwilliam (older, known since long ago, and conservative) and Henry Alveston (young, known since a short time ago, much more progressive).
  • Bludgeoned to Death: In the film version, Denny's head was struck multiple times by Will.
  • Brother–Sister Team: George Wickham and Mrs. Younge.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Soldier's headstone is actually the murder weapon, after Denny tripped and hit his head on it.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Will Bidwell.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: This is a central tenet of being a Darcy according to Fitzwilliam. In the film version, his great-grandfather was a wastrel who plunged the family into debt and this greatly colors how Fitzwilliam sees Georgiana's relationship with Henry Alveston. When Wickham is put on trial for murder, Fitzwilliam tries to push Georgiana towards Colonel Fitzwilliam in hopes of securing a more financially stable future for her in case Georgiana's reputation is ruined by Darcy's in-law connection with Wickham.
  • Crisis Crossover: George Wickham worked for Sir Walter Eliot, and while Sir Walter flirted with his Lydia, he flirted with Sir Walter's daughter Elizabeth. Anne Eliot is described as "having made a prosperous and happy marriage", and Sir Walter's financial situation has improved so much that he threw his poor occupants out and returned to the Elliott's family home. Harriet Martin and Emma Woodhouse both wrote to Colonel Fitzwilliam, and finally succeeded in convincing him to let Harriet take George Wickham's son at home.
  • The Cutie: Georgiana and Henry are both this for Elizabeth.
  • Darker and Edgier: The BBC version is quite a bit more violent and melodramatic than the original novel. It makes Darcy's great-grandfather into a wastrel who squandered his money, when in the novel he was simply an antisocial recluse. In the book, Will only struck Denny once, and did not pursue him. Lizzie's overnight journey from Pemberley bearing Will's confession does not occur; instead, the letter is brought into the court by the local Vicar. Similarly, this letter arrives after the jury has reached its verdict, but before the judge has pronounced sentence; Wickham is not saved in the nick of time from the gallows, but is simply sent back to his prison cell to wait a day until a Royal Pardon can be arranged. Finally, the hanging of Thomas Reilly is simply mentioned, and not actually witnessed by Darcy and Wickham.
  • Death by Falling Over: The true cause of Denny's death, after he tripped and hit the back of his head on Soldier's gravestone.
  • Death of a Child: Darcy remembers a day when he watched a boy named Thomas Reilly hanged for poaching.
  • Defiled Forever: A variation. Though Louisa Bidwell had consensual sex with Wickham, her fiancé is reluctant to continue the engagement. He changes his mind.
  • Dramatic Irony: Lydia slanders Lizzie near the beginning of the book, claiming that she only married Darcy for his money, while Lydia married for love, completely oblivious to the fact that Wickham had to be bribed by Darcy into not leaving Lydia and ruining her reputation, an act that caused Lizzie to realise she was in love with Darcy.
    • Captain Denny is murdered by Will Bidwell, who believes that Denny is the man who impregnated and abandoned his sister. It turns out that Denny was actually trying to warn the Bidwells of Wickham's plot to take Louisa's baby away from her to be adopted by Mrs. Younge, whether or not Louisa agreed.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Mrs. Reilly hanged herself when her son, a little boy, was executed.
    • Darcy's great-grandfather, a wastrel of a man, shot himself.
    • In the original novel Mrs. Younge throws herself in front of a carriage after Wickham is found guilty.
  • Ghost Story: The local ghost story around Pemberley is about a woman known as Mrs. Reilly, who hanged herself when her young son was executed. It turns out the woman is actually Mrs. Younge, looking in on the boy she intends to adopt.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: In Darcy's flashback to Thomas Reilly's execution, the death is marked by the rope falling as Reilly is hanged.
  • Hanging Judge: Selwyn Hardcastle's father. Who else would sentence a young boy to hang?
  • Happily Adopted: Wickham's son at the end of the story.
  • Harmful to Minors: A flashback shows a young Wickham and Darcy watching the execution of Thomas Riley.
  • The Hedonist: In the BBC version, Darcy's great-grandfather, who wasted most of the family's money and eventually committed suicide. It took two generations until all his debts were repaid and the family was financially stable.
  • Hidden Depths: In the book, George Wickham had Mommy Issues and was a loving brother to his illegitimate half-sister, though he remained unfaithful and jerkish as ever. Mr. Darcy had a generous but proud mother, Lydia became a loving wife (just as in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen) but was jealous of her sister Elizabeth for attracting Wickham's interest at first. Colonel Fitzwilliam / Vicount Hartlep had a lot of consideration for class, which caused him to despise people he found beneath him once he became a Viscount.
  • Honor Before Reason: Denny, Wickham's friend.
  • Hysterical Woman: Lydia, understandably.
  • Impoverished Patrician: In the BBC version, the Darcys were this thanks to Fitzwilliam's hedonistic great-grandfather; his father was still trying to pay off debts by the time Darcy was born.
  • Jerkass: George Wickham, Lydia, and Colonel Fitzwilliam are presented as this.
  • Loners Are Freaks: In the original novel, Darcy's great-grandfather was not a hedonist who squandered the family fortune, but a recluse who had the forest lodge built and lived there with only his dog Soldier as company. This is also considered to be of bad character, as he did not take the responsibilities expected of the owner of Pemberley.
  • Look Both Ways: Mrs. Younge is run over by a carriage in the street.
  • The Mentor: Mr. Bidwell has been training Wilkinson to be the Darcy's coachman since his son Will won't survive to succeed him.
  • Metaphorically True: When Wickham is found in the woods, he cries out that he has killed Denny. Denny had exited the chaise because he refused to go along with Wickham's plan to essentially abduct his son from the boy's mother and hand him over to Mrs. Younge. When Denny approached the Bidwell's house, Will struck him in the head, causing him to die from a fall.
  • Mortal Wound Reveal: A variation. Denny is already dead but nobody knows how he died until his body is turned over, revealing the back of his head was partially smashed in.
  • Murder by Mistake: Denny is killed by Will Bidwell, who mistook him for Wickham, who had gotten Will's sister pregnant out of wedlock.
  • Old Retainer: Mr. Bidwell, the Darcy's coachman. His family has served the Darcys for generations; unfortunately he will be the last since his son Will is dying.
  • Outliving One's Offspring:
    • Mrs. Reilly had to watch her young son being hanged, and subsequently did the same thing to herself.
    • Mr. Bidwell's son Will is dying at the beginning of the story, and passes away before it finishes.
  • Predecessor Villain: Not quite villain, but Darcy's great-grandfather's hedonistic ways cast a long shadow over how the Darcy family runs things.
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • Elizabeth is this for Georgiana/Henry.
    • Conversely, Darcy ships Georgiana and Colonel Fitzwilliam.
  • Ship-to-Ship Combat: In-universe, Elizabeth and Darcy clash over who Georgiana should marry. Elizabeth supports Georgiana and Henry Alveston, who have a mutual attraction, while Darcy favors his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam because he is more financially secure.
  • Skewed Priorities: It is a part of the Deliberate Values Dissonance which gets even more stressed on for the villainous and mean characters.
    • It is hard to say whether Sir Selwyn Hardcastle has this or is ironic.
    • Lydia seems to want to go the ball despite her husband and her friend being lost in the woods, where someone shot something.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Will Bidwell, who doesn't appear much in the story (in person anyway), but turns out to be Captain Denny's killer, having mistaken him for Wickham, who he believed to be his sister's rapist.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Colonel Fitzwilliam's fate is not mentioned in the epilogue.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Selwyn Hardcastle's father had a young boy hanged for poaching.
  • Uninvited to the Party: Lydia Wickham has not been invited to Lady Anne's Ball, but she plans on showing up least, until her husband's friend is murdered.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Darcy turns and vomits onto the street after seeing Mrs. Younge's body, smashed under the wheels of a carriage.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Will Bidwell is dying of an unknown illness by the time of the main story and indeed he passes on late in the book, shortly after confessing to killing Denny.