Murder at Mansfield Park by Lynn Shepherd

Well, Janeites, it is with a heavy heart that I report to you: this book is not very good.  I had high hopes, since it was a murder mystery, but alas those hopes were dashed upon the rocks of mediocrity. As may be surmised from the title, this is a retelling of Mansfield Park in mystery form.  I don’t think it will spoil anything to tell you that Fanny is the victim. It’s on the flap copy.  What the flap copy doesn’t tell you is that this plodding narrative, which remakes Fanny into a bratty heiress whom readers will be glad to see bludgeoned on the grounds of Mansfield, is a complete departure from Austen. All the characters are recast, mostly not for the better.  Edmund is now Mrs. Norris’s stepson, and not bound for the clergy, Fanny is rich, the Bertrams are middling.  The reader gets the story mostly from Mary Cawford’s point of view, and she and Henry are probably the best characters in the novel as well as the most sympathetic.  

What doesn’ make sense is why the author chose to use the characters from Mansfield Park, and the setting, and then proceeded to change them all;  she may as well have just written her own book with totally new characters, leading this reader to believe that the only reason to use MP as the jumping off point was to lure unsuspecting Janeites who are also mystery lovers into purchasing this twaddle.  The best thing about it is the detective, Maddox, and he doesn’t appear until more than halfway through.  Speaking of, this purported murder mystery is without a victim for 140 pages. If I hadn’t been committed to reviewing this, I would have cast it aside in frustration after about 25 pages, truth be told, but I took one for the team.  Caveat Emptor, you’ve been warned.  

May I recommend any of the several wonderful Austen themed mysteries by Carrie Bebris instead….

PS—I have not forgotten my promise to post the Bibliography from my JASNA presentation about Jane Austen and Embroidery. That is coming up this weekend! Stay tuned…

Published by Robin Henry

Independent Scholar and Book Coach specializing in Historical Fiction and Literary Fan Fiction.

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