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P.D. James writes Jane Austen sequel

P.D. James could hold back no longer.
/ Source: The Associated Press

P.D. James could hold back no longer.

The 91-year-old detective novelist said Wednesday she was glad to finally complete a long-desired project — a sequel to Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice."

James' "Death Comes to Pemberley" will be published by Faber & Faber in Britain in early November and by Alfred A. Knopf in the United states on Dec. 6.

James said in a telephone interview from her home in London that the new book allows her to indulge two great passions: Austen and crime stories. James' novel is the most recent of many sequels to "Pride and Prejudice."

"I love the idea of setting a book in Pemberley, six years after the marriage of Elizabeth and Darcy. And I love the idea of bringing murder to Pemberley," James said with a laugh.

She will not give away the ending, of course. But she does share the beginning: It's October 1803, and friends and family have gathered at the home of Darcy and Elizabeth to help celebrate the annual autumn ball.

Suddenly, Darcy looks out the window cries out, "Who on earth is this?" A carriage hurries onto the grounds, carrying Lydia Bennet Wickham, Elizabeth's sister.

"She"s screaming that Wickham (George Wickham, her husband) has been killed," James explained. "An expedition is mounted to see what happened. We follow everyone through the investigation. It's a very serious detective story."

James said she needed about two years to finish the book, although she had the idea well before that. Known for such novels as "Devices and Desires" and "A Taste for Death," James said she prefers creating original characters but thought she could add to the world Austen immortalized some 200 years ago and loved the idea of using a crime to invent some new people, like the examining magistrate and other local residents.

"It was hard work," she said of researching her story, "and I hope I got all the details right. There's a lot at stake. I looked into crimes in that area around that time and while there's none quite like what I've invented, I think it works out very well."

Still, having expanded on one of the classics of English literature, James vowed, "I shall never do anything like this again."