Q INTERVIEW | P.D. James on Death Comes to Pemberley

The queen of mystery writing talks about her love for Jane Austen, how she hopes to improve the genre and what truly frightens her.
British writer P.D. James knows Jane Austen would disapprove, but felt now was the time to write a murder mystery involving the hero and heroine of Pride and Prejudice. (Quim Llenas/Cover/Getty Images)

British mystery writer P.D. James begins her newest novel with an apology to Jane Austen, acknowledging that the iconic writer probably wouldn’t approve of blood-spattered bodies.

Particularly not at her beloved Pemberley, the estate where the former Elizabeth Bennet and her husband Mr. Darcy are raising their two children about six years after their marriage at the end of Pride and Prejudice.

James, 91, has written Death Comes to Pemberley, a mystery that embroils Austen’s famed characters in a sordid murder investigation and brings the horror of the outside world into an idyllic married life.

In an interview with Jian Ghomeshi, host of CBC's Q cultural affairs show, James explains that she is far from the first to pen a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, a project she’s been hoping to complete for many years.

She finished her last mystery novel featuring her popular protagonist Adam Dalgliesh just before turning 90 and said she thought she’d better write her Austen sequel now, while still at her sharpest.

James spoke to Q from London about her love of Austen, how she hopes to improve the mystery genre and what frightens her the most.