Death Comes To Pemberley Summary

P. D. James

Death Comes To Pemberley

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Death Comes To Pemberley Summary

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Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James takes place six years after the wedding of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy—characters many readers will recognize from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The pair are still happily married, with two sons. As the story begins, they are preparing for an annual ball that they host at Pemberley, the Darcy family

s grand manor house in Derbyshire, England. Readers of Pride and Prejudice may also remember the wayward Mr. Wickham, who caused problems for both Elizabeth and Darcy during their courtship. He eventually married Elizabeth’s sister, Lydia, in Pride and Prejudice, and those two are often in the company of Wickham’s friend and fellow soldier, Denny.

In Death Comes to Pemberley, Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam are preparing for the ball when Lydia appears without sending word of her arrival. Furthermore, she isn’t invited–not because Elizabeth or Fitzwilliam dislike her, but because they dislike her husband, who once extorted money from Fitzwilliam. Lydia arrives hysterically upset, and claims that Wickham, her husband, was murdered en route.

Fitzwilliam Darcy, his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam—the similar names can be confusing for some readers, which is one reason why Darcy is often referred to by his last name—and others including Henry Alveston leave Pemberley to search for Wickham’s body. Since it seems to have happened on Darcy’s land, he is responsible for getting to the bottom of the matter. There is further impetus for him to find the answer, because otherwise it is likely that Lydia, his sister-in-law, will put a great strain on the upcoming ball and Elizabeth. However, when they reach the spot where Lydia said Wickham was murdered, they find Wickham alive. Instead, they see that Denny is dead—Wickham confesses that he is responsible for Denny’s demise.

Wickham’s confession and Denny’s death prompts an investigation. As Wickham was once Darcy’s friend, Darcy has difficulty believing the man is capable of murder, even though he strongly dislikes him for his treatment of both Darcy’s younger sister and Lydia. Yet, Wickham is the only one without an alibi. It’s decided that Wickham must stand trial for Denny’s murder. The trial is moved to London in order to ensure that it’s fair once it becomes known that Darcy and Wickham are connected through their wives. However, that doesn’t prevent Darcy from having to testify. Though Darcy states Wickham is incapable of murder, the fact that Darcy did not extend Wickham an invitation to the annual ball causes people to gossip.

Wickham is found guilty of Denny’s murder and sentenced to death by hanging. Upon hearing the sentence, a character named Eleanor Younge, runs from the courtroom and attempts suicide. While her reasons for this are not made plain at the time, her actions catch the reader’s attention. Eleanor Younge twice helped Wickham elope, both in his first attempt with Georgiana, Darcy’s younger sister, and then in his second attempt with Lydia Bennett. It was Darcy who discovered them, and he recognizes Eleanor.

Before Wickham’s execution, the confession of one William Bidwell is read, detailing how he mistook Denny for Wickham. Wickham had had an affair with Bidwell’s sister, Louisa, leaving her pregnant. It was Elizabeth who figureed out the Bidwells, tenants on Darcy’s land, are involved in these events. Wickham arranged for Eleanor, who desperately wanted a baby, to adopt Louisa’s unwanted child. However, when Wickham was sentenced to death, Eleanor thought she would never get the child and so killed herself. Unfortunately, she did so before Wickham could be pardoned. Bidwell’s confession made plain that it was not Wickham who killed Denny. The child ends up being adopted by another family.

With monetary aid from Darcy, Wickham and Lydia leave England and go to America. Rather than remain financially responsible for Wickham and Lydia for the rest of their lives, he decides to fund their journey across the Atlantic. During the course of the novel, there is some strain placed on Elizabeth’s and Darcy’s marriage, but by the end of the novel, they have mended their relationship and Elizabeth tells Darcy that she is pregnant.

Georgiana, who was so heartbroken over Wickham before the events of Pride and Prejudice, finds love and marries Henry Alveston.