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mansfield park murdered
on 8 October 2013
In Murder at Mansfield Shepherd essentially uses the same setting and set of characters(though they are all vastly altered in everything but name)as Austen, and still exploring many of the romantic entanglements from the original throws a murder and her own detective into the mix. As such I was interested to see how this twist on Jane Austen's classic would pan out, but unfortunately found myself disappointed.
For me personally I didn't see the point of using Austen's original characters if Shepherd was only then going to alter them so drastically that they were no longer recognisable, or anything akin to the characters that have come to be cherished in the minds of her fans. Indeed the first few chapters I found rather confusing, like entering a parallel universe almost where everything is topsy-turvy to what one is accustomed to.
Despite this, I was able to eventually get my head round the new state of affairs and settle into the story, willing to still give it a go, accepting Mary Crawford as the new heroine and Fanny as the irredeemable character Shepherd paints her to be. However, where Austen's great skill as an author lies in the charm of her characterisation, the way her characters, heroes or villains, leap to life from the page, Shepherd's alterations seemed caricature in comparison. Hence, I found myself unable to really come to care for any of Shepherd's characters or connect with them.
Furthermore, Shepherd lacks Austen's subtlety and naunce, her irony and dry wit, such that the result feels heavy-handed in comparison.
As for the murder element of the story, whilst it added a little intrigue and drama, I had my suspicions regarding the murderer from the start and didn't think it was as well plotted as it could have been, nor measuring up to other detective stories of the genre.