15 Dec 2011
Ever wondered what it would have been like if Jane Austen had turned her hand to murder? Murder at Mansfield Park takes Austen's masterpiece and turns it into a riveting murder story worthy of PD James or Agatha Christie. Just as in many classic English detective mysteries, this new 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.