cover image Murder at Mansfield Park

Murder at Mansfield Park

Lynn Shepherd, St. Martin's Griffin, $14.99 paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-312-63834-4

Mary Crawford, a minor character in Mansfield Park, takes center stage in Shepherd's debut, a clever reworking of the Austen novel that's strong on plot, character, and historical accuracy. Shepherd has altered Austen's characters, some beyond recognition. Most notably, meek and unassuming Fanny Price has become "a monster of complacency and pride" in Kingsley Amis's phrase borrowed from his essay on Jane Austen. Mary, whose cheerful disposition and wit ensure her acceptance at Mansfield Park, suffers much at Fanny's hands. When Fanny turns up dead in a trench on the park grounds, an apparent victim of foul play, a horrified Mary winds up playing detective. While mystery fans will find much to like, it is Austenites who will be most gratified, particularly by how well Shepherd has captured the tone of Austen's original. For anyone who thought Henry Crawford deserved Fanny or who has a problem with vampires and ghouls invading Jane Austen's world, this will be a delight. (Aug.)