REVIEWED BY AMANDA KEATS
Ever wondered what would have happened if Jane Austen had met Agatha Christie? (Please can Doctor Who do this?!) What would they have talked about? And what would their books have been like? What if Jane Austen had been so impressed at Agatha Christie’s sharp mind that she decided to try her hand at writing a whodunit crime book herself?
Wonder no more! The marvellous Lynn Shepherd has your answer in the form of the brilliant Murder at Mansfield Park.
When Henry Crawford is assigned landscaping work at Mansfield Park, he brings his sister Mary along to stay with him on the grounds. But though their presence is welcomed by Sir Thomas Bertram, not all the family members are as pleased with their arrival. Mary soon discovers a darker side to the outwardly courteous and demure Miss Fanny Price and a creative side normally neglected to the introverted Miss Julia Price. And she is immediately taken with the young Mr Norris, who is already engaged to Miss Price.
What follows is an Austen-esque battle of the wills as gender and class roles are called into question over inheritance, duty and love. But what normally would be resolved with a typical Austen happy ending (after all the initial dramas of course) takes a much darker turn as a body is discovered beaten to death on the grounds and time is short to discover the true culprit.
As can be found in any great murder mystery, everyone and anyone is considered a suspect at one point or another and secrets come out just when you least expect it. Mr Maddox is called up from London to investigate, a man with no sense of decorum or social etiquette – only the single-minded goal of unearthing the truth. So with the cat placed firmly among the pigeons, it’s only a matter of time before the real killer is discovered…
There are twists and turns which will leave you guessing right to the end (which does not disappoint!) and surprise references to Longborne and Mr Bingley and Mr Ferrars but the absolute genius of this book is the flawless combination of plot twists and dark characters with the language and social standards of Jane Austen’s era. And it more than passed my train test! Believe me – once you start, this delightfully dark book will be very difficult to put down.
You can find out more about Lynn Shepherd on her website here