Debra E. Marvin
As so often happens, many of our favorite costume dramas show first in the UK, and then months/years later, show up on US telly. Thankfully our friends at Masterpiece Theater feed our need for British drama and I admit to being a Masterpiece snob. Intellectually speaking, who doesn’t love the fact there are no commercials!
Back in 2011, the well-known mystery author P.D. James ventured from her usual genre in an attempt to combine her love of Austen and murder by joining the ranks of Austen Fan Fiction-eers. Hundreds of books have been written based on Austen characters. I truly understand this. Did Ms. James, now in her nineties, succeed? It’s debatable.
I listened to Death comes to Pemberley, and it was my first taste of James’ writing. That was probably a mistake. She is the author of sixteen or so novels, mostly mysteries dealt with by the character Adam Dalgleish. I was expecting a rousing mystery so I hung in, interested, because 1) I wanted to find out how she produced the villain in the end, and 2) what the heck. The characters were people I knew… well, you know what I mean.
Then, in the fall of 2013, I learned that a 'mini-series' version was coming to the small screen. A new Elizabeth and D’arcy! The fabulous Anna Maxwell-Martin was to be Elizabeth. That alone would have sold me. Last Christmas, the UK watched. The reviews were mixed, much like the book, but seemed to be liked, overall.
Not long after reading (listening) to the book, I found the video online and watched it – all three parts, back-to-back. In so doing, I saw many changes from the book and felt it was an improvement. If you read it out of passion for Austen’s characters, you might be disappointed. Ms. James doesn’t flesh them out as we’d hoped, and even the mystery seemed a bit stodgy at times. But the screen production had the luxury of giving the characters more life and manipulating the plot a bit. I think it was a success, and even with reading the book and seeing the series, I will watch it again because I'm a sucker for costume drama and would never miss a visit to Pemberley!
Death Comes to Pemberley will be shown on Masterpiece starting Oct 25th. Let me know what you think!