Friday, January 7, 2011

Murder at Mansfield Park by Lynn Shepherd

Book Details
Murder at Mansfield Park by Lynn Shepherd
Paperback, 384 Pages
2010, St. Martin's Griffin
ISBN: 0312638345

"Nobody, I believe, has ever found it possible to like the heroine of Mansfield Park." --Lionel Trilling

In this ingenious new twist on Mansfield Park, the famously meek Fanny Price--whom Jane Austen's own mother called "insipid"--has been utterly transformed; she is now a rich heiress who is spoiled, condescending, and generally hated throughout the county. Mary Crawford, on the other hand, is now as good as Fanny is bad, and suffers great indignities at the hands of her vindictive neighbor. It's only after Fanny is murdered on the grounds of Mansfield Park that Mary comes into her own, teaming-up with a thief-taker from London to solve the crime.

Featuring genuine Austen characters--the same characters, and the same episodes, but each with a new twist--MURDER AT MANSFIELD PARK is a brilliantly entertaining novel that offers Jane Austen fans an engaging new heroine and story to read again and again.

Like everyone else who has ever read Mansfield Park, I strongly dislike Fanny Price. She was a weak, pathetic main character that you just couldn't want good things for. When I heard about Murder at Mansfield Park, I immediately thought this was exactly what the original needed. When I learned that Fanny was to be the murder victim, I was sold.

Unfortunately, the author decided to not only kill Fanny off, but to change her entire demeanor. While I believe Fanny was strongly in need of a personality adjustment, Shepherd did a complete 180 with the character and made her a strong-willed, mean spirited wench. Once again, you wanted bad things to happen to her. This time they did, but since she was such an awful person, it was hard to care who killed her.

The first half of the book dragged. The writing was vaguely reminiscent of Jane Austen, but it lacked the deep snarky humor Austen weaved into all of her works. Once Fanny is murdered and the professional investigator arrived, the story started moving, but remained dry.

The one major huge thing Murder at Mansfield Park has going for it is its mystery. It was crafted well, with many convincing suspects and motives. Fanny's killer was impossible to figure out because everyone had the means, motive and opportunity.

If read as an original historical mystery, Murder at Mansfield Park is an interesting, if not exactly thrilling experience. Those who've read Mansfield Park will find it near impossible to not compare the two and find that Murder at Mansfield Park while different, lacks Austen's flair.


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