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VINE VOICEon 25 July 2017
This is the second literary spin-off I have read by this author, following her re-imagining of Dickens's Bleak House, Tom-All-Alone's. The early part follows the narrative of Jane Austen's novel very closely, but with some subtle differences in who is related to whom, and many of the characters have differing traits and driving forces, especially Fanny. The novel becomes a Georgian whodunnit when a body is found in the grounds of the Park and a thief-taker from London, Charles Maddox, who also appears in Tom-All-Alone's, is called to the scene. I won't give away any spoilers, but this is very well written, with a style similar to Austen's, which at times felt almost disconcerting to me, having read Austen's novel only two weeks earlier. The later scenes where Maddox investigates combine this Austen style with dramatic confrontations and quite shocking events in a very successful way. When I reviewed the earlier book, I said I thought that it had slightly besmirched my view of Bleak House, but I don't feel the same way about this one - the re-imagining is done in a different way that doesn't spring so directly from the themes of the original (though if I were to re-read Austen's novel now, I would surely have some new images in my mind).
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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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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 5 February 2013
Murder at Mansfield.Very well written. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Murder at Mansfield with the interesting variations on Jane Austen's original Mansfield Park.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 February 2012
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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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 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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