Saturday, 15 December 2012

'Murder At Mansfield Park' - Lynn Shepherd

I opened 'Murder At Mansfield Park' with two thoughts...
1) I could really like this. I'm a huge fan of Jane Austen and anything remotely linked to the classical authoress should be right up my street.
2) I could really hate this. Anything that alters the text of the brilliant Jane Austen could really annoy me. Surely she is too special for anyone to toy with her work...

Fortunately, I found I loved Lynn's edition of 'Murder At Mansfield Park'. It held me captive from the first to the last word.  For those of you who haven't read it, I will try not to give too much of the plot away, but some of it is as per the original so feel I can mention that.

The main character of the original text, Fanny Price, is altered in Lynn's edition. This adjusted personality gives the novel new opportunities and Lynn grabs these with carefully crafted skill.  Mary Crawford and her brother Henry still arrive in the mists of Mansfield Park, as per the original, but their characters are altered too. Mary appears a much pleasanter person in Lynn's edition and takes the lead role throughout the novel.  Edmund Bertram takes a new position in Lynn's version as the son of Aunt Norris rather than the second son of the Bertram family. The other Bertram children are largely as per the original text.

The victim is well chosen and apt, given the twists that Lynn develops, and the murderer especially well plotted.

If I had to name one thing about the book that I enjoyed the most I would have to say Charles Maddox - Lynn's detective. Charles, needless to say, is not one of Austen's characters but Lynn's own private investigator. His character is brilliant, a breath of fresh air and clevely blended into the setting of the Austen world.

Charles Maddox is featured in Lynn's second novel, 'Tom-All-Alones', which I purchased and read on the strength of 'Murder At Mansfield Park'. I thoroughly enjoyed the second novel too.  Treat yourself this Christmas...

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