There was only one man who could write a pulp homage to gothic romance, dragging in references from Jane Austen to Edgar Rice Burroughs, from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to Lester Dent, and beyond, while making it deliciously naughty.
And that man was, of course, the late lamented Philip José Farmer.
The Evil in Pemberley House by Farmer and Win Scott Eckert – who completed the novel based on Farmer’s outline and notes – is exactly that: a P.J. Farmer tour de force featuring subtle (and not-so-subtle) references and tongue-in-cheek plot twists, feeding both the old master and his readers’ obsession for the pulps and the icons of popular literature.
The plot in brief: Pat Wildman, daughter of world famous adventurer/crimefighter Doc Wildman, moves to England after the loss of her parents. She has inherited old Pemberley House, with its ghosts and its curses, and carries a number of unresolved issues herself.
But what is happening really in Pemberley House, and what connections have the events that Pat is witnessing with the history of her family?
There is a lot of sex and assorted naughtiness in this literary tour de force – and while diverse shenanigans pop out when you least expect them, there is very little that is gratuitous in this book, and in the end each and every element of the plot fits nicely in the solution, everything makes sense, everything works.
But before we get to the solution we go through a lot of adventure, intrigue, thrills and chills and, yes, sex.
But this is a P.J. Farmer story, after all, and therefore it is all right – it’s classy even when it leaves behind all decency, and if Austen, Burroughs, Dent and Conan Doyle (and all the other authors referenced) would certainly be shocked at some of the things Pat will have to go through, yet all the elements of gothic novel, old style supernatural romance, haunted-house stories, bodice-rippers, and pulp adventure are in place, and work like a wonder.
You can actually read it a number of times – the first time enjoying the ride, the second time tracking all the references and in-jokes, the third looking for the details you missed on the first two runs…
The Evil in Pemberley House is granted to shock the uninitiated, but is certainly a treat for lovers of metafictional narratives, and for fans of the great,late P.J. Farmer.
Read it and be ready to be shocked – but we know you’ll like it in the end.