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Wrapped in the delicious language of Jane Austen, Lynn Shepherd's MURDER AT MANSFIELD PARK takes the insipidity of Fanny Price and exposed her for what we all knew lurked inside: a raging mean girl with a hint of the devil. Turning Manfield Park on its ear with Price's murder, Shepherd introduces us to a heroine whose mettle is equal to any man - Mary Crawford. Many familiar with Austen's Mansfield Park have wondered why Crawford wasn't the true heroine; her wit, charm and resourcefulness drew us in even though we knew she was inherently bad for us - almost the perfect Austen bad boy in that respect - but we see in MURDER AT MANSFIELD PARK that her character is deeper, her sensibility unmatched and her loyalty unwavering when faced with questions regarding the demise of Price and its ultimate conclusion with the assistance of thief taker, Charles Maddox.
Maddox brings a new dimension to the usual Austen-esque stories. His methods of extracting information cross the boundaries of socially acceptable and the inhabitants of Mansfield Park are uncomfortable with the man they've chosen to help solve the mystery and bring the murderer to justice. That feeling of unease helps to keep the reader on edge. Maddox softens toward Mary as her reliable spirit and keen eye help him to sort through information but does it blind him to her involvement? His own prejudice forged from experience in the streets of London may have him chasing the wrong man...
Shepherd's skill as a storyteller is excellent. I was looking forward to this book before its release and I was not disappointed. The ending was suspenseful and well crafted, the characters rich and fully developed. I can't wait to read more from Shepherd, I'm saving space right next to my copy of Austen's PERSUASION.