Tirzah Price’s Manslaughter Park, a murderous retelling of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, was a surprise and a delight. I was not familiar with the YA trilogy (of which this is the third), so I expected it to be like other favorite retellings such as Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver or Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. These hew closely to the original plot (David Copperfield and Pride and Prejudice, respectfully) though they’re set in the modern era. Manslaughter Park was totally different than that. Price took many liberties with the source material, but I could tell it was done with expertise and respect. She honored the spirit of Austen’s characters but totally changed the plotline to turn Mansfield Park into a cozy mystery. It worked for me.
Manslaughter Park takes place at Mansfield Park, and the cast from the original story is present…although a few of Jane Austen’s best loved characters from other books make an appearance too. The story is told from Fanny’s perspective (the mostly unloved poor relation taken in by the wealthy Bertram family). Her Uncle Thomas operates an art dealership out of the manor and appreciates Fanny’s interest in art. Besides her uncle, the only kind person in her life is Edmund. He’s a relative of Uncle Thomas, and she’s got a huge crush on him. Everything is turned upside down when Uncle Thomas dies unexpectedly. When Miss Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy (!!!) turn up for the reading of the will, being the lawyers representing Uncle Thomas’ estate, unexpected information is revealed. When Fanny discovers that her uncle might have been murdered, she tries to solve the crime.
I loved the addition of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy as lawyers (though I was sad to see they hadn’t gotten married). This is a great example of the way Price nodded to Austen’s work yet made the story her own. She didn’t stop here, however. As in Mansfield Park, Londoners Henry and Mary Crawford join the mix, and as in the original, they disrupt the romances already budding. However, the courtships are even more complicated…and juicy. I enjoyed this fun retelling and plan to read the other two in the series.
Tirzah Price holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is a senior contributing editor at Book Riot. When she’s not writing, reading, or talking about YA books, she splits her time between experimenting in the kitchen and knitting. Originally from Michigan, she now lives in Iowa.