Monday, 19 October 2015

Murder at Mansfield Park by Lynn Shepherd

Yes, as the title might suggest, this really is a murder mystery version of the well-known Jane Austen novel, Mansfield Park. Although at first you might think you are reading Austen herself, so cleverly has Shepherd recreated the tone and feel of the classic novels we know and love so well.

Shepherd has turned Fanny Price into a scheming heiress, charming and demur to her doting aunt and uncle, Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, and in particular Mrs Norris, but snide and belittling to everyone else. Fanny is betrothed to Mrs Norris’s step-son, Edmund, but her attention soon wanders when that popinjay, Mr Rushworth, begins a flirtation.

The heroine of this novel is Mary Crawford who narrates much of the story. She forms a friendship with Edmund while her brother, Henry, is employed to redesign the Mansfield Park gardens. So begins what seems a wonderful comedy of manners – the romantic intrigue, the witty dialogue, the delight of the gentry in putting on plays and riding out to view other people’s homes are all there. And then there’s a murder.

The book swiftly changes its tone as Mary does her own bit of sleuthing and makes some alarming discoveries, while the Bertrams employ Charles Maddox, a ‘thief-taker’ from London to investigate. Maddox is determined and uncompromising, and takes Mary on as an ally, but is she prepared for what he uncovers?

Murder at Mansfield Park is a brilliant re-imagining of an Austen novel, and the murder element which gives the plot a bit of oomph is sure to please the modern reader. Maddox is a brilliant creation and you will meet him again in Shepherd’s other literary mysteries, all of which are true to their period, stylistically flawless and riveting reading.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link (print copy): Murder at Mansfield Park

Catalogue link (ebook): Murder at Mansfield Park

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