Murder at Mansfield Park
By Lynn Shepherd
Ever wondered what it would have been like if Jane Austen had turned her hand to murder?
Murder at Mansfield Park took Austen’s masterpiece and turned it into a riveting murder story, long before PD James did the same. Just as in many classic English detective mysteries, the novel opens with a group of characters in a country house setting, with passions running high, and simmering tensions beneath the elegant Regency surface. The arrival of the handsome and debonair Henry Crawford and his sister forces these tensions into the open, and sparks a chain of events that leads inexorably to violence and death.
Beautifully written, with an absolute faithfulness to the language in use at the time, Murder at Mansfield Park is both a good old-fashioned murder mystery that keeps the reader guessing until the very last page, and a sparklingly clever inversion of the original, which goes to the heart of many of the questions raised by Jane Austen’s text. Austen’s Mansfield Park is radically different from any of her other works, and much of the pleasure of Lynn Shepherd’s novel lies in the way it takes the characters and episodes in the original, and turns them into a lighter, sharper, and more playful book, with a new heroine at its centre – a heroine who owes far more to the lively and spirited Elizabeth Bennet, than the dreary and insipid Fanny Price.
A treat for Austen lovers and murder mystery aficionados alike.
Reviews and quotes
Rachel Billington, Author of 'Perfect Happiness', a sequel to 'Emma'
Lynn Shepherd had a great idea: inject the supposedly staid world of Jane Austen with a grisly murder. The result is thoroughly entertaining and keeps the reader and the neighbourhood guessing, rather as if Agatha Christie was writing in the early nineteenth century.
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
A clever reworking of the Austen novel that’s strong on plot, character, and historical accuracy... While mystery fans will find much to like, it is Austenites who will be most gratified, particularly by how well Shepherd has captured the tone of Austen’s original.
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
First-timer Shepherd remains true to Austen’s style while providing a sound puzzle. Janeites may be delighted or appalled, but more impartial readers will find much to enjoy.
People magazine, 3.5 stars out of 4
Shepherd’s delightfully witty re-imagining of Mansfield Park, with its country manor and simmering family tensions, as a classic whodunit... Shepherd is a passionate aficionado who pays scrupulous attention to historical detail, and her mystery shines a lively light on the classic.
Faithful to Austen’s elegant style without being mawkish, Shepherd’s knockoff puts a playful, irreverent twist on a beloved classic. Verdict Some Austen purists will be outraged at the liberties taken with the characters, but others will delight in the changes of the insipid Fanny, who is not one of literature’s more popular heroines.
Sydney Morning Herald
This…novel is for those looking to relive the pleasures of Austen, rather than see them savaged.
Historical Novels Review (Editor's Choice, May 2010)
Lynn Shepherd does a superb job of keeping the reader guessing with the twists in the plot in the race to find the murderer, and producing an unexpected heroine along the way... Much lighter, more entertaining, and more amusing than the original... Its language is authentic, with quotations and snippets that will warm the hearts of true Austen readers, and includes enough dead bodies, motives, murderers, and detectives to keep crime readers riveted, complete with the inclusion of a 19th-century equivalent of a post-mortem.
The Bookbag website
The language throughout is delightful and lends a particular charm to the novel. Wholly in keeping with the times but I can see that Shepherd is having fun now and again, dragging out perfectly innocent conversations to almost comic proportions. Lovely stuff.... There are some nice twists and turns along the way before the whole unhappy and complex story is laid bare before us. And some lives are changed forever. In essence, a rollicking good story.
The Shots Crime and Thriller e-magazine
In preparation for Murder at Mansfield Park I reread the original – it was as slow-going as I remembered it, and its heroine, Fanny Price, as prim and annoying. It was worth the effort, however, as it brilliantly brought out the wit of Shepherd’s reworking... The result is a novel so much more entertaining and thrilling than the original.
Jane Austen Regency world website, 6 regency fans, its highest rating ever
That Murder at Mansfield Park is Lynn Shepherd’s first novel is most surprising. Her writing style is lovely and effortless as she weaves several plot elements into a seamless whole. Rather than copy Jane Austen, Ms Shepherd uses Mansfield Park as a take-off point... A truly hearty and satisfying new mystery novel.
The Austenprose website, 5 out of 5 stars
This was a pastiche written with great respect for the original by an author who understood the novel as it was evolving during the early nineteenth-century and had a superior command of the language... Shepherd had achieved the impossible by renovating Jane and totally charming me in the process.