Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Fanny Price? Murdered? Who would do such a thing to poor Fanny? Isn’t she just the Bertram’s shy conscientious, and dutiful niece? No. Not in this Mansfield Park retelling. The Fanny Price Lynn Shepherd’s recreates is so arrogant, scornful, and malicious that she bears little resemblance to the shy and introverted character Jane Austen created. And it isn’t that hard to believe that somebody would want to do her in!
In this alternative version on Mansfield Park, readers will find several unique twists and character alterations: Instead of being a poor and friendless relation, Fanny Price is a wealthy and parent-less heiress. Instead of being a proficient in the art of stealing hearts, Henry Crawford is a master in the art of horticulture. Instead of being mercenary and worldly, Mary Crawford is humble and compassionate. And finally, instead of being Mrs. Norris’s nephew, poor Edmund is her stepson! Sounds like quite a few personalities and situations have swapped here, doesn’t it?
What I liked most about this novel was Ms. Shepherd’s remarkable cleverness. From subtle nods to other Jane Austen characters to allusions of Jane Austen and her letters, Murder at Mansfield Park is filled with fun and intelligent references and parallels. Moreover, I was greatly impressed with Ms. Shepherd’s fantastic use of Austenesque vocabulary and diction! Not only is the structure of her sentences similar to Jane Austen’s, but her satirical observations and commentary beautifully display her skills in emulating Jane Austen’s voice. Lastly, I loved the mystery! With multiple suspects, exciting twists, and hidden secrets, Ms. Shepherd always kept me guessing, and I found her unconventional, astute, and gruff investigator, Charles Maddox, to be very entertaining and a little swoon-worthy too! (Go Team Maddox!)
Even though I loved all these aspects about Murder at Mansfield Park, I just couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed that the characters were so wholly different from Jane Austen’s originals. The only characters who maintain their original personality’s and character attributes are Mrs. Norris and to some extent, Lady Bertram. I would have liked it better if these characters held onto some of their original traits a little bit more.
Overall, I found Murder at Mansfield Park to be a diverting and originative retelling/mystery of Mansfield Park! I recommend this novel to readers looking for exemplary Austenesque prose, mysterious intrigues, and a new twist on Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. Whether you love or loathe Fanny Price, I think you will find something to enjoy in this well-crafted tale!