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Bell, Book, and Murder: The Bast Mysteries Paperback – 15 Aug 1998
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"Edghill has a chatty, witty style that keeps the action fast-paced. Definitely a new twist to the mystery genre." --USA Today
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Overall a book I'd rate as 'OK'. However ...
If asked to rate the Wiccan/Neo-Pagan element of the story alone I'd have to go with three stars ('I liked it'), to me it was the mystery element that let the book(s) down (the who/why-they-dun-it pretty obvious early on) along with, to a greater or lesser extent ...
The writing style. A purely personal preference but the stream of consciousness approach which the author seemed to favour just isn't altogether to my taste. Then there was the tendency towards repetition to say nothing of the use of slang which I found incredibly frustrating at times.
Then there was the fact I found certain aspects of Book Of Moons too similar to Speak Daggers To Her - dare I say verging on a re-hash? Something that might not have been of such a concern if I'd read the books as separate novels rather than presented as 'three books in one' as was the case in Bell, Book And Murder.
Not to dwell on the negatives though. As I said I enjoyed the Pagan aspect, finding the themes of religious intolerance and even downright bigotry (especially in the Bowl Of Night which was by far my favourite book of the three) fascinating if somewhat shocking reading.
Then there was Bast (aka Karen). A character I found to be wonderfully quirky, frustratingly naive, resourceful and yet blind to the obvious, all in equal measure. In other words a perfectly rounded character unlike some of the others who, well, lets just say I didn't feel were all they might be.
Copyright: Tracy Terry @ Pen and Paper
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
More than twenty years ago Rosemary Edghill was caught by the mystery of the sudden death of a healthy young woman in her 20’s. Add to that the ethical violations within the New Age Community that were not taken seriously and Speak Daggers to Her was born. (FM Writers)
It was Lace on the phone, which meant that Miriam was Miriam Seabrook, and Miriam was my age. People in their middle thirties don’t just up and die.
“Bast?” Lace sounded half-a-step away from hysteria. “We were going out to dinner and I used my key and she was lying there on the bed and I thought she was asleep–” Lace took a deep breath and started to cry in high weepy yelps.
“Did you call the police?”
I thought I was fine — after all, I wasn’t the one who’d walked in and found my lover dead — but my jaw muscles ached when I pushed the words out. Not Miriam. Not dead. I didn’t even know her very well, I plea-bargained.
“I can’t. You know I can’t. You know what they’ll do to me — oh, please, please, can’t you come over?” Lace started to cry in earnest, a real Irish peening for the healins.
New York City, like many large cities, is a place people go when they seek others like themselves. Sometimes “The Establishment/ Society” frowns upon the existence of certain alternative lifestyles. Bast, Miriam and Lace belong to the 1990’s neopagans and Witch community in New York. Or as Bast describes themselves:
“overeducated ex-hippies trying to unscrew the inscrutable, trying to make sense of life through ritual and gnosis.”
When Bast arrived at Miriam’s apartment and saw that, yes, she was definitely dead and Lace was gone, Bast called the police. Before they arrived she removed an occult necklace from Miriam’s body.
“a mummified bird claw of some kind, with the stump wrapped in silver wire so she could string it on the chain. The nails were painted red.“
That claw freaked Bast out, as did Miriam’s message on her answering machine:
The rest of the review is on my blog [...]
Best as Witch, is a very realistic portrayal as a true, modern, Neo-Pagan Witch. Her insight, her moral compass and her snarky attitude make her a very different type of heroine, one who does the unexpected.
These are wonderful books that have stood up to the Changing Times.
Second, the positives: The books were humorous and the best Wicca/Witchcraft fiction books I have read so far.
Speaks Daggers to Her: This is one of three books in the compilation Bell, Book, and Murder, and the first book I have ever read by Rosemary Edghill. I liked the mystery, even if it was a little disorganized. There is a moderate amount of magic(k) in the book, but frequent references to the Goddess, Wicca, and covens. One important issue that this book addresses (and I feel correctly so) is the Wiccan Rede. The main character's struggle with wanting to do the "right thing" and yet defend her dead friend is similar to the daily struggles we witches face, always trying to do what is best, but finding it necessary to harm for self-preservation. The ending is abrupt, but does provide closure. This is a book that the non-fluffy bunnies will enjoy.
Book of Moons: This is very much a re-hashing of the first book in style and in some plot points; I felt irritated, having solved the mystery right away and having to wait for Bast, the main character, to catch up. I kept thinking, how can she proclaim to be a witch and be so dumb??? Overall, it was a little more of a struggle to read than the first book, because of its tiresome redundancy. It still contained the same wittiness I enjoyed in the first book, but I found Bast's character to be weaker. For instance, Bast disregards her instincts (Why? I don't know.) about a man curious in joining her coven. She does not like the guy, but continues to downplay her gut feeling and even tries to defend him, because she feels guilty that she may not be giving the man a fair chance. A little too fluffy, if you ask me. I prefer stronger main characters, more like Bast was in the first book. I would think after being right in the first novel, this would propel Bast to be even more certain of herself, but unfortunately, that is not the case.
Bowl of Night: What could be better than a Pagan festival of several days at a campground with a lot of murder suspects? Of the three, I like this book the best, mainly because of Bast's two love interests, though there was little actual action going on there. I felt most absorbed in this vividly-described tale, but was sorry to find that the killer was who I suspected from the beginning. The clues were quite obvious, but I wanted so badly for the villain to be someone else. The themes of religious intolerance and bigotry were predominant. This book was a more personalized "religious" experience for Bast, and the final book on this character (that I am aware of). It is sad to see the end of a likeable character, who seems like a real person. I hope Rosemary Edghill will write more books along this line.
"Speak Daggers to Her" begins with the death of a wannabe Wiccan and introduces most the rest of the characters that will appear in the other books. "Book of Moons" concerns the thefts of various Books of Shadows and escalates to murder and fraud. "The Bowl of Night" moves the action out of the city to a pagan festival and murder of a ranting local.