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5.0 out of 5 stars Transcends the pastiche genre...
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...
Published on 20 Jan 2012 by FictionFan

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars mansfield park murdered
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...
Published 14 months ago by little bookworm


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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre, 8 Mar 2014
Plot line and writing style basic at best, Shepherd's work is substandard. If you're looking for a thrilling and exciting mystery book, look elsewhere - you will be disappointed. Her attention seeking in the media recently just proves her writing skills to be poor and is quick to spark controversy by ripping other successful and talented authors to pieces in a bid to up the sales of her books. Do not waste your time, you have been warned.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What is the point., 9 April 2012
I really did not see the point of this novel. Shepherd uses Austen's characters and often her words, but with none of her humor or psychological insight. She swaps the light and dark characters and throws in some murders. From my knowledge of the original I quickly guessed who done it, but I may not have done so from this book as Shepherd had not given the character the depths of nastiness that Austen did and this was the problem the characters were superficial and one dimensional apart from Maddox the detective, who was Shepherd's own creation. In the end I was left wondering why. If the heroine had made a different choice at the end and this was the first of a Georgian set of whodunnits staring the couple then it may have made sense.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I prefer Murder to Mansfield, 3 Mar 2013
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I enjoyed this one more than Ms Shepherd's Dickensian pastiche, especially the second half, which for the most part followed the rules of a traditional whodunnit, most unlikely suspect Doing the Deed and so on. However I did note at least two points left unexplained, neither listed in the discussion suggestions at the end (I won't elucidate them, as I don't want to give the plot away).

However, as with the Dickens, I was none too happy with the author's attempt to emulate Austen's style. Let me give two instances: on four occasions the author uses "thankfully" as a "dangling adverb", i.e. not related to the subject of the sentence, e.g. "thankfully the rain had now ceased". The classic example of this nowadays is "hopefully" - "hopefully the weather will be fine tomorrow", and I'm glad to say that this does not occur in this book (or, "thankfully this usage does not occur"). Many people will maintain that nowadays this is accepted usage, but my point is that Austen never uses it in her entire output: I found 11 usages of the word "thankfully", all relating to the subject of the sentence, e.g. "whose great kindness I shall always thankfully remember".

My other cavil is with the author's usage of the "quaint" spelling of "sopha", the more usual spelling never appearing. In Austen's entire works there are just two instances of "sopha", both in juvenilia, and 46 of "sofa", many of them having Lady Bertram reclining on them.

Are these petty objections? They certainly jar when you read them, and bring you back to the basic point of Why read a pastiche rather than the real thing? I don't object to the transposition of some characters, Fanny as a rich relation rather than a poor one (but equally odious), Edmund as Mrs Norris's stepson (and equally priggish), though I can't see the point of transposing William from being Fanny's brother to being a Bertram brother. I appreciate that if he were Fanny's brother she wouldn't be a rich heiress, but he gets so little mention that he'd be better omitted altogether.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Transcends the pastiche genre..., 20 Jan 2012
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FictionFan (Kirkintilloch, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Murder at Mansfield Park (Paperback)
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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful, 10 Mar 2014
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Fren (Northumberland, England) - See all my reviews
What awful rubbish, I gave up as I could not bear the way she mangled Austen's characters. It is difficult to imagine what could make it worse - zombies perhaps?
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sensitive to sensibilities!, 17 April 2010
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Michael McLaren (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Murder at Mansfield Park (Paperback)
Pre-ordered speculatively - and as it turned out, I am delighted to have done so. The is a loving homage to all things Austen. Author Lynn Shepherd was unknown to me - but she doesn't just know Miss Jane Austen, she clearly adores her subject and it shines through on every page, making this book a joy from beginning to end. The language touches - thrilling as I sat on the 'sopha'! - the witty delivery and the attention to detail combined to make the plot fresh, and breathed new life into the familiar characters and personalities. If you enjoy reading Austen - as I do - then you will love this page-turner, and will eagerly anticipate every new twist in the story of Mansfield Park and its inhabitants and neighbours. Can't recommend highly enough. I have a feeling that Jane Austen herself would be thrilled by it - she couldn't fail to be - and would no doubt invite the author to join her in a turn around the room as they dissected a close friend's character and found it, in humble charity, wanting. 5 stars out of 5.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lightly subversive but ultimately disappointing, 26 Feb 2012
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Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
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Apologies to all the reviewers who loved this - but I found this book lightweight and ultimately rather disappointing. Shepherd generally does a good job of keeping the elegant tone of Austen's diction but I never felt that her re-writing throws any new light back on the original.

I'm not an Austen purist and have enjoyed the anarchic chaos of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, for example, as well as Juliet Archer's modern re-tellings of Emma (The Importance of Being Emma) and Persuasion (Persuade Me). All of these, I think, re-open the original texts and give us new ways of seeing them.

I guess Shepherd's take, for me, is too unsubtle and descends into silliness: the idea of the new tamed and meek Mary Crawford single-handedly laying out, washing and preparing a violently murdered body for burial, for example, in a big house like Mansfield Park, packed with servants, seems ludicrous. And the Poirot-style cross-questioning of the Bertram and Norris families' alibis never really came to life.

So plenty of people have loved this - I really wanted to enjoy it but ultimately found it a bit absurd.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Silly, 14 Dec 2013
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Mansfield Park is reconstituted as a murder mystery, with Fanny the first of two victims & Mary Crawford aiding the investigation. The prose style apes Austen's but falls far short of her quality & lacks any trace of wit, humour or irony. The characters have little depth, with some so reduced (Sir Thomas for example) as to be merely mentioned here & there, & the plot is creaky & crudely assembled. Not recommended.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 2 May 2012
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The author is using the setting of Mansfield Park and the names to sell a book which bears no resemblance to the original story. I was expecting her to at least maintained the characters, but they are unrecognisable. A big disappointment.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As through a prism, darkly, 17 Sep 2011
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This review is from: Murder at Mansfield Park (Paperback)
Mansfield Park was always a rather less satisfying Austen novel, principally because of the curiously un-Austen like heroine. Fanny Price always seemed like a model for the late Victorian (Dickensian) sweet natured, pedestal dwelling model of selfless, long suffering martyred and hard done by woman, rather than the intelligent, articulate , witty woman of spirit, who also learns, changes and grows in depth that Austen generally places centre stage. I think many readers must have suspected that Mary Crawford was the real central character, but that somewhere along the line Austen shuffled her out of the way, and pushed a character of secondary interest, Fanny, into the spotlight. It's as if, in Pride and Prejudice, Jane Bennett, rather than Elizabeth, had been the central character

However, for all the original Fanny's apparent sweetness, Kingsley Amis professed to see something devious, describing her as `a monster of complacency and pride, who, under a cloak of cringing self-abasement, dominates and gives meaning to the novel.

First-time novelist Lynn Shepherd appears to use this as a springboard, with inventive imagination and a sure mastery of Austen's style, and a satisfying sense of period and immersion inside the original novel.

She makes a few radical changes, most particularly of wealth and therefore status, and from thence sets in train new relationships and alliances, and a tie-in between Mansfield Park and a murder mystery. Fanny, now blessed with more wealth than anyone else, and therefore a being of status, to be courted, not despised, becomes rather obviously Amis' monster. The central character of this novel is the one most readers probably found the natural central character of the original - Mary Crawford, here, with the wit, intelligence and sensitivity to others which she so often showed in the original novel, before Austen seemed to collect herself and start flinging a lot of baser motivations and over emphasis on financial gain towards her. However, what we do have, is the Crawfords, brother and sister, of a lesser status and fewer means than the others, and therefore, more aware of the day-to-day gradations of class and position. All the above stairs characters of the original novel are in place, as they were, but seen as if through a prism which changes how we see them - certain virtues become flaws, certain flaws may be seen as virtues. And, in addition, we are introduced to a cast of below stairs characters at Mansfield Park itself, and the new tensions provoked by the influx of an early nineteenth century detective into the mix. Shepherd has fun with various characters introducing ideas - as fantasies - of what will be later tools of detection into the mix - someone for example wishing it were possible to identify whose blood is on a garment, and somebody else ridiculing the whole idea that this would ever be possible.

It would insult Shepherd to say she has written a very accomplished pastiche. What she has done, is to immerse herself into an original text, and use that as a springboard into something else (whilst, admittedly using quite a bit of the original text and subverting it to her own devices) I very much look forward to reading what she will do with other classic texts - Bleak House is the next!
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Murder at Mansfield Park
Murder at Mansfield Park by Lynn Shepherd (Paperback - 8 April 2010)
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