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3.7 out of 5 stars62
3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 8 October 2013
In Murder at Mansfield Shepherd essentially uses the same setting and set of characters(though they are all vastly altered in everything but name)as Austen, and still exploring many of the romantic entanglements from the original throws a murder and her own detective into the mix. As such I was interested to see how this twist on Jane Austen's classic would pan out, but unfortunately found myself disappointed.

For me personally I didn't see the point of using Austen's original characters if Shepherd was only then going to alter them so drastically that they were no longer recognisable, or anything akin to the characters that have come to be cherished in the minds of her fans. Indeed the first few chapters I found rather confusing, like entering a parallel universe almost where everything is topsy-turvy to what one is accustomed to.

Despite this, I was able to eventually get my head round the new state of affairs and settle into the story, willing to still give it a go, accepting Mary Crawford as the new heroine and Fanny as the irredeemable character Shepherd paints her to be. However, where Austen's great skill as an author lies in the charm of her characterisation, the way her characters, heroes or villains, leap to life from the page, Shepherd's alterations seemed caricature in comparison. Hence, I found myself unable to really come to care for any of Shepherd's characters or connect with them.

Furthermore, Shepherd lacks Austen's subtlety and naunce, her irony and dry wit, such that the result feels heavy-handed in comparison.

As for the murder element of the story, whilst it added a little intrigue and drama, I had my suspicions regarding the murderer from the start and didn't think it was as well plotted as it could have been, nor measuring up to other detective stories of the genre.
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on 27 February 2014
Though the author seemed very bright and charming in interview, I thought what she had done with the plot and characters was --as usual with anything to do with Mansfield Park, which every adaptation of, except for an old BBC 1980s one. gets wrong. I thought there was no feel for the period, the dialogue was lame, and the whole --as far as I got --was characterized by the ghastly perkiness which writers who attempt to imitate Jane Austen substitute for wit. I would say that it is not nearly, however, as bad as any of the updatings of the novels currently flowing out by much better-known authors --I would give them 0 stars, whereas 2 signifies to me 'just about bearable'
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on 18 January 2013
At first it seems fun to be delving into the world of Mansfield Park, albeit with the characters mostly taking on different characteristics to those of Jane Austen's original ones. It's odd that we know (from the back cover) who the murder victim is to be, and this doesn't occur till we have no qualms about her being finished off anyway. There are some further unexpected elements, but the wit doesn't carry the story, and somehow the subversivness did not hit the mark for me. I would like to have cared about the characters more, but many were just not robust enough to 'feel real.'
A lot of people have obviously been delighted by this book, and it does show a good knowledge of the original, but I just did not love it enough.
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VINE VOICEon 12 August 2010
The Austen sequel or entertainment is an not uncommon beast these days, even if Pride & Prejudice is more usually the chosen book. As the title might give you a clue - this one relates more to Mansfield Park.

The major characters from the Austen novel are all there in name, but characters and relationships have been seriously altered. The first third of the book is mainly made up of recycled dialogue and narrative from Mansfield Park, but not necesarily in the same order. Mr Rushworth's character is changed to be more like Henry Crawford (and he is given the 'black and plain' description belonging to him in the novel) crossed with Robert Ferrars, so it seems odd when he is given dialogue beloning to the Mr Rushworth of the original novel, although not perhaps as strange when Mrs Norris is found spouting his lines.....

Fanny Price moves to become a rich heiress and the eldest of the female cousins; her character is more like the Maria of the book crossed with Lucy Steele and Caroline Bingley! Maria becomes more like the Julia of the book and Julia becomes more like the Fanny of the novel crossed with Marianne Dashwood - got that yet?! Henry Crawford here I don't really know - I'm not sure we got a proper description, so he does seem a bit of a cipher.

It's not a bad book, but with the murders I found it all rather unpleasant - I prefer such things to be more about the solving of the mystery than the incident itself, and here we have so few characters who could have committed the crime I didn't feel like I was waiting with baited breath for the conclusion (it's not Pug, in case you were worried.....). some characters were so underdeveloped it was rather obvious that they wouldn't have been involved. I do feel that having made so many changes, Lynn Shepherd would have been better off writing her own, original novel; one can't help but feel she has used Austen just to sell her book whereas her original dialogue does suggest that she could allow her writing to stand on its own merits.
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on 27 December 2013
I only made it a quarter of the way through this, was very disappointed by it. The writing style was ok but sometimes the author was trying too hard to emulate Austen and falling well short. That I could forgive, but there was poor characterisation and plot and I found it boring. The author has changed the characters completely, so Fanny is a haughty rich beauty and Edmund is the arrogant son of Mrs Norris. Why bother using the characters from the novel and then completely changing them to make them unrecognisable? The character development was also very poor and I didn't care about any of them. I found the plot slow and shambolic, copying bits from the source novel eg. the play but these bits were not relevant to the plot or the characters. I plodded on with the book but have to confess I was so bored by it I didn't even make it to the murder!
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on 22 September 2014
Although this was a fairly good period whodunnit, it doesn't really appear to have much in common with the original 'Mansfield Park', as the characters have been changed so much as to be unrecognisable. I would guess it was more of a marketing decision to use that name in the title, as it would obviously generate more interest. The writing style was suitable for the period, but there was a curious lack of period detail. Overall it was an interesting read, but the link with the original book was, for me, more of a negative point, as the differences were a little distracting.
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Being normally wary of pastiches of much-loved books, I approached this with great trepidation. And for the first few chapters I was duly horrified at the author's topsy-turvy treatment of my beloved Edmund and Fanny and the whole Mansfield clan. However, inspired by trustworthy fellow-reviewer Lady Fancifull's enthusiasm for this novel, I struggled on...and soon found I was captured by the quality of the writing, the excellent and dark mystery at the heart of the book and the spirit and intelligence of our new heroine, Mary Crawford.

Charles Maddox, the detective, is a fine creation who I believe is to appear as a character in future books. In him, we can see some traits of many of the early fictional detectives - Sergeant Cuff, Inspector Bucket et al. Intelligent, determined, no respecter of social rank but with a dark and possibly cruel streak, I look forward to seeing how he develops.

The plot is satisfyingly mysterious and though I didn't work out whodunit I felt on looking back that the author had played fair with the readers by giving all the necessary clues while providing plenty of red herrings to misdirect. I could see similarities in style of plotting to the great Agatha Christie, the undisputed queen of the country-house murder, and I can give no higher praise than that! This book will undoubtedly appeal to Austen fans but I believe it transcends the pastiche genre to become a first-rate mystery novel in its own right. Highly recommended.
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on 13 September 2013
Too many changes to original story, charachters have changed their position within the original family which made the story confusing and hard to follow
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on 27 March 2012
My main issue with this book is the blatant disregard for Austen's original Mansfield Park. I'm quite a fan of these classic-horror re-writes that have been flooding the market recently but the ones I've read at least have the decency to twist the original in such a way that many important details are kept unchanged. Murder at Mansfield Park does no such thing! I was really irritated and confused in the beginning because the characters are so different.
Fanny Price is no longer the eldest child of impoverished parents, her mother in disgrace with the family for marrying below her station and subsequently cut off. She's now an only child and the heir to a large fortune, having lost her mother (who married above her station) and high born father as a child. She is brought up at Mansfield Park by her aunts and uncle from an early age, putting on a performance in front of her guardians that is at odds with her vicious character. Hence, her background, character and treatment are all the opposite of what they should be. Her cousins are also different with Edmund now a Norris and not a Bertram and peripheral characters (such as Tom Bertram) are swept into the background until needed and brought 'out of the cupboard' at intervals so we don't forget them (although Tom disappears entirely towards the end) The background and characters of the Crawfords have also been changed to fit in with the story
I also objected to the constant references to other Austen books (talking about Mr Bingley of Netherfield and Sir Robert Ferrars) and I particularly hate sentences like 'If only there was a way to prove it was my blood' and 'Wouldn't it be easier if we could prove who handled the weapon?' Ridiculous.
There were also times when the characters were particularly rude to non-family members, something that would have been unheard-of during the Regency period.

Shepherd would have been much better off creating entirely new characters for an entirely new book and remembering that people living in the Regency period probably didn't even imagine that one day science would advance enough to allow us to test blood and take fingerprints.

Having said that, once I got to grips with who was who (and tried to ignore the supposed Austen connection), I actually quite enjoyed the book as a whole. The plots twists keep you guessing and the characters are well developed. I would have given the book four or five stars had it been more original. Shepherd is obviously capable of it, the character of Maddox is brilliant and the new Mary Crawford a star.

I'm afraid to say, I certainly won't be reading any more
Moving on...
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on 27 June 2012
There are advantages and disadvantages in writing a story based on a well-loved novel. On the plus side the author has well sketched out characters and locations to build upon and, on the minus side, high expectations to live up to. Why then does this author completely discard Miss Austen's carefully drawn characters, change the history of those characters absolutely and completely rewrite a literary history which stands in no need of rewriting. Had she written the same book about different characters in a new setting the book might have been interesting, as it stands it has no discernable merit.
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