This novel is, essentially, a sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice but you didn't need to have read Pride and Prejudice in order to understand and get this book. This is a murder mystery that takes place at Pemberley (the Darcys' estate) approximately 6 years after Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet have married. James adequately describes the history of the families and the characters and then also, lovingly and painstakingly describes what appears to be a beautiful life (at least in the beginning). On a dark and blustery evening, Elizabeth, her sister Jane, Darcy and a few guests are eating dinner, relaxing by the fire and preparing for the annual ball that is taking place the next day. As they are getting ready to pack it in for the night, the characters see a chaise lurching and speeding unsteadily towards the house, nearly falling over in the process. When the carriage finally gets to the house, Lydia (the sister of Jane and Elizabeth, who, as you may or may not remember, married in disgrace to Wickham) is hysterical and even more high strung than she normally is. What ensues is the discovery of a dead body with Wickham standing over it, covered in blood. There is also an investigation, an inquest, a trial and a few twists and turns.
I don't know how she did it, but PD James could have passed as Jane Austen in her literary style. It was as if she was channelling the author of books like Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. If I hadn't known any better, I would have though that Austen came back from the dead to write this novel. That being said, while I generally liked the book, because of the style, it was slow going, almost like wading through molasses or taffy (in a good way!). If you are really into the detective genre, though, you'll probably guess at most of the big twists and turns accurately, but it was still an entertaining read, nonetheless. I also really enjoyed how PD James attempted to introduce the tensions that English society at this time was facing - namely the growing women's rights movement and how it played against the more conservative elements of British society in the 19th century or thereabouts.
Definitely one to try.