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'Death Comes To Pemberley' Part 1 Review: A Lush Lesson In Gothic Mystery

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It's a brave author who picks up a Jane Austen classic and runs with it, but PD James' gamble of a sequel to 'Pride and Prejudice' was richly rewarded with this lush adaptation.

death comes to pemberley

The story picked up six years after the events of 'Pride and Prejudice'

The chemistry between Anna Maxwell Martin and Matthew Rhys proved the Darcys' marriage to be well worth all the palaver of Austen's original novel. They could barely keep their mitts off each other and, with Elizabeth safely installed as chatelaine of the impressive estate, it was left to Darcy's niece Georgiana to be ricocheting between suitors, seemingly eschewing the attentions of a rich but sanguine countryman for the winks of an urban charmer - sound familiar?

But any romantic suspense was only the hors d'oeuvre to the main delicious course of murder-mystery, as Lydia Wickham no less (Jenna Coleman, the face of this BBC Christmas) squawked into the house, claiming the slaying of her universally despised husband.

death comes to pemberley

Trevor Eve was poker-faced as the investigating magistrate

What followed was a lesson in Gothic drama, as horses trampled through dark rain, forest leaves were bloodied, women stood waiting at windows, and Mr Darcy found himself the owner of an estate with a corpse on it. And who's that strange woman who keeps appearing on woodland paths?

If this all sounds a bit grim, there was much fun to be had along the way. Rebecca Front took particular pleasure as the ghastly Mrs Bennett. When she wasn't busy admiring a picture of everyone's enemy, the dastardly Wickham - "sooo handsome" - she was being thoroughly disingenuous about her second daughter's matrimonial fortune.

"Isn't it big? I always forget," she murmured, eyeing up the Pemberley edifice as though she couldn't recite its impressive dimensions in her sleep.

'Death Comes To Pemberley' continues on Friday evening at 9pm, BBC1.

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