Sunday, September 21, 2003

The 'Bast' Mysteries

I recently bought Bell, Book, and Murder, the 3-in-1 edition of Rosemary Edghill's "Bast" mysteries: three short mystery novels set in 1990s Manhattan whose protagonist is Karen Hightower (Craft name "Bast"), a thirty-something graphic designer. Her design business is called High Tor Graphics, both a pun on her name and a tribute to a famous SF novel.

While the mysteries are not always tightly plotted and leave lots of "Now why did he do that?" questions in the reader's mind, Edghill has a firm grasp on the Pagan scene, with its coded language and social nuances.

I read the first two in the series soon after they came out, but I never got around to the last one, Bowl of Night (1996). Although I'm a long way from New York City, I thought that I recognized a few people that I knew and some places too, thinly disguised. Was that Judy Harrow? John Yohalem? Bast's coven, Changing--does that sound a bit like "Proteus"?

Reading all three in quick succession, though, made me think they they charted Edghill's gradual disenchantment with the Pagan scene. By the end of the trilogy, Bast drifting away from the rest of Changing coven and trying out in her mind the possibilities for finding a new high priest (she's Gardnerian) and forming her own. But I would bet that if there were a fourth book, it would show Bast as a solitary, more emotionally disconnected from the world of gossipy metaphysical bookstores, festivals, and other Pagan dress-up events.

In the first book, Bast says, "The day I discovered that all Witches don't believe in magic was a great shock to me." Now I do not know Rosemary Edghill at all. I have never read her fantasy novels nor her romance novels. But I wonder if someone who writes fantasy was hoping to find a certain magic in Wicca, but she did not find it--and so she moved on.

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