MURDER AT MANSFIELD PARK
Of all the Austen novels to revamp, Mansfield Park — and its insipid heroine — seems the least likely candidate. All the more reason to commend Shepherd. She superbly nails Austen’s language and weaves in a number of subtle touches for those who have studied the novel. Fear not if you’re unfamiliar with the original, however — even using Austen’s characters and episodes, Shepherd has created something that feels entirely new.
Fanny Price is no longer the mild and meek pauper, but a cold, proud heiress. Edmund Bertram is now Edmund Norris, with a stepmother bent on seeing him married to Miss Price’s great fortune. Mary Crawford, as vivacious as she is in the original, is here fashioned with unflinching ethics. Events transpire as they do in Austen’s novel, until Fanny is murdered and Mary teams up with Charles Maddox — also from the original novel, but now a thief-taker (private detective) from London — to solve the crime. (ST. MARTIN’S GRIFFIN, Aug., 352 pp., $17.99)