Rosemary Edghill's Bast (a.k.a. Karen Hightower) is a modern-day witch and amateur detective whose investigations lead her through the colorful and exotic world of New York's occult underground. In Book of Moons, a series of puzzling thefts serves as a prelude to a shocking murder whose origins lurk centuries in the past.
Every witch has a Book of Shadows: part recipe book, part liturgy, and part diary. Now someone is looking for one very odd, very special Book--and is willing to kill for it. Bast has few suspects and fewer clues, but where there's a witch, there's a way.
"Edghill portrays this New York subculture with humor and panache and provides a unique, if sometimes cynical, perspective. Recommended." - Library Journal
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
About the Author
Rosemary Edghill is a prolific writer in several genres, under her own name and various pseudonyms. Her Bast books, witty mysteries featuring a Wiccan amateur detective, were collected in Bell, Book, and Murder. She has also written Regency Romances and fantasy novels, including several collaborations with Mercedes Lackey (Spirits White as Lightning and Mad Maudlin) and Andre Norton (Shadow of Albion and Leopard in Exile).
Edghill lives in upstate New York with several cats and several Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, which she shows in obedience competitions.
Read an Excerpt
Book of Moons
A Bast Mystery
By Rosemary Edghill
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 1995 Rosemary Edghill
All rights reserved.
SATURDAY, APRIL 9, 4:45 P.M.
It was a Saturday in the middle of April and I was at the studio, making up for lost time at my day job by working overtime. I was short because last month I'd gone up to Rites of Spring, the Boston- area Pagan festival, and so had been out of the studio for more than a week.
Going to festivals affects everyone in different ways. It made me want to have a cleaner, larger, more upmarket apartment.
It made Belle want to have a similar festival here.
I suspected I was going to be asked to organize things, and I suspected I'd agree, because Belle and I were just now putting the icing on a patch-job of our friendship. It had been badly strained by the events of last summer and Belle's friendship was not something I was eager to lose, any more than I particularly wanted to leave Changing, which is my coven and Belle's.
The difference between us is that Lady Bellflower is Changing's High Priestess and I'm just another spear-carrying urban Witch. My name — my real name — is Bast, and you can stop doing that Elizabeth Montgomery impersonation right now.
Religion, Threat or Menace, is shaping up to be the hot issue of the nineties, as anyone who's studied the history of centuries ending in zero could predict. This time, however, the lines seem to be drawn not between this sect and that, but between those who believe in Deity — any deity, God or Goddess — and those who think that religion belongs in the past tense.
Wicca, the Religion of Witchcraft, the Old Religion, the Craft of the Wise, or whatever you want to call it, may be the new religion that sociologists and millenialists have been predicting since the 1950s — a life-affirming, politically correct, empowering, individuated, and nonsexist map to gnosis — or merely another post-Bomb, ante-millennial flash in the pan.
Personally my money's on the First Church of Star Trek, which has motivated more people in its various revivals than have ever heard of Wicca. This is why television is the religion of the masses, and religion is the television of the few, the proud, the freelance graphic artists.
This particular Saturday I'd volunteered to take a rush job that Mikey Pontifex, our fearless owner, had dumped on Ray Lawrence (Houston Graphics' art director) at a quarter to five yesterday. The client needed it Monday morning by ten. Surprise.
Rush jobs with stupid deadlines are what Houston survives on, so it wasn't a question of whether we'd do it, but who'd get stuck with it. Ray has a wife and kid he likes to see occasionally. So guess who volunteered?
Besides, if I wasn't working, what would I do to keep out of trouble?
The phone rang.
"Bookie-Joint-Can-I-Help-You?" I sang into the mouthpiece, because Houston Graphics is only open from nine to five weekdays. After hours the studio is taken over by freelance graphic artists and other urban elves and, like much of New York, travels under an assumed name.
"Bast, is that you?" It was Glitter, a friend as well as being one of my coven mates.
"Sure," I said recklessly.
"It's gone," Glitter said agitatedly. "I've looked everywhere for it, and Goddess knows I didn't loan it to anyone; why would I loan it to anyone? And you've seen my apartment, Bast — I can't have overlooked it."
Glitter's apartment is bigger than mine, but not by much.
"What is gone?" I demanded, hideous possibilities suggesting themselves.
"My book," Glitter said, as if I should already know. "My Book of Shadows. It's gone."
I tactfully stifled the urge to laugh, if only for sheer relief. "It's a mitzvah," I said. "Be happy." Which might have seemed callous, until you considered what Glitter's book looked like.
"Bast!" Glitter wailed in my ear.
I wasn't really worried yet. Dark forces stealing your Book of Shadows — BoS for short — is right up there with being under psychic attack by a black coven and being haunted by poltergeists as things that Do Not Happen In Real Life.
And besides, outside her day job, Glitter is not the world's most organized person.
"Did you look under your mattress?" I said.
There was a deep breath at the other end of the line. "I've looked everywhere. I've looked. I have looked."
"Okay," I said soothingly. "Have you told Belle?" Belle, being Glitter's High Priestess and mine, should logically be the first one approached with these little miseries.
"I called you first. Can't you do something?" Glitter said. "You know."
Whether it is because I have the misfortune to be a tall, blue-eyed, thirtysomething brunette who looks as if she has all the answers, or simply because I was born to stand in the wrong place at the wrong time, I am the sort of person whom people like Glitter ask to "do something."
Or it may be because last summer (if you believe the Magic Power of Witchcraft crowd — the ones who believe life is an episode of the X-Files) I single-handedly banished a black magician from the Community with the force of my immense Wiccan power.
He was a black magician. But he was hit by a car.
"I'm supposed to meet Beaner and go down to Lothlorien," I told Glitter. "But I'll come up after that, okay? I'll look for it for you."
I heard Glitter take a deep breath. "Okay, Bast. But it isn't here."
After promising to stop at the Chinese place on the corner and pick up two quarts of shrimp-fried rice on my way, I hung up. I stared sightlessly at myriad tiny veluxes of women in girdles. What I was working on, if I could believe the copy I'd run up in the front matter, was a source catalogue for fifties re-creationalists. The nineteen-fifties, you are to understand.
Next to that, my lifestyle almost looked mainstream.
I tried to believe that my recent phone call was some sort of a joke, but I couldn't convince myself that Glitter hadn't sounded serious. Still, I continued to hope she was mistaken.
A Book of Shadows is part logbook, part recipe book, part liturgy, and part magical diary. Every Witch makes her own out of material both handed down and self-created. It's a very personal thing, but on the other hand it wouldn't be that hard for Glitter to re-create the contents, even if she didn't have the help I knew that Belle would give her for the asking. The rituals in it are supposed to be secret, but that hasn't kept a number of different versions of the BoS from being published at one time or another, from The Grimoire of Lady Sheba on down through Raymond Buckland's numerous "Create Your Own" handbooks.
There wasn't much more I could do now, either about Glitter's Book or women in girdles. I tidied my area, took Friday's paycheck out of my purse, wrote "Karen Hightower" on the back with my Mars Technograph Number One, slipped it into an envelope for deposit to Chemical, and went to meet Beaner.
* * *
Houston Graphics is located (thanks to a long lease) in what used to be cheap commercial space in beautiful downtown New York where Broadway meets Lafayette — and for that matter, Houston.
It's still commercial, but it's no longer cheap. A few blocks south the nabe remains authentically tacky in all its antique sweatshop glory, but around here the creeping Disneyfication of New York goes on.
You could call it urban growth, but from here it looks a lot more like a war; a war not against a government, but against an era. And, as in any war, there are casualties.
In the Age of Fable, around the time I was learning to walk, New York was a city of bookstores. There were the great uptown temples of Brentano's and Scribner's, the lesser chapels like Shakespeare & Co. and Gotham Book Mart, and no one had ever heard of a national chain or a shopping mall.
Downtown was the Land of Cockaigne: used, secondhand, antique — call them what you like, they were bookstores where you might, indeed, find anything. Stores where you would certainly find something. Sweet-smelling catacombs filled with second chances for authors not fey enough to grab the brass ring of literary immortality the first time out.
Economics and the rising price of real estate were the Modred in this particular Camelot, and like all good destroyers, they moved from the weak to the strong. Today the Strand, at Broadway and Twelfth, is the last faded standard-bearer of the thousand shining emporia that once were threaded like pearls on Broadway's shining silver cord. Scribner's, though landmarked, isn't a bookstore anymore.
In the war against the written word, the logoclasts are winning.
* * *
It was raining when I got outside — that April rain with the subversive undertone of warmth that insists spring is just around the corner. I detoured to the ChemBank on the corner and sent my paycheck to join the other deposits. My boots splashed through puddles. A taxi cut close through the intersection, soaking me to my denimed knees. I caught up with Beaner under an awning near a coffee push-cart at Grand.
He tossed his Styrofoam espresso cup in the trash when he saw me and flung out his arms. He looked expensive and well kept, both of which he is.
"Bast! Dah-ling! You look mah-velous!" He also does the best Fernando Lamas imitation this side of Billy Crystal.
"Yeah. So do you." I hugged him. "How's it going?"
"We start full rehearsals next week." The rain had moderated itself to heavy mist. Beaner took my arm and we headed downtown.
From him I don't mind it. He tells me it's genetic. Beaner was born in Boston with a silver swizzle stick in his mouth to a family that is genteelly horrified at the path his life has taken.
His family doesn't mind that he's gay. They don't care if he's a Witch. What gives them fits is that A Son of Theirs is performing on the public stage. Which is another way of saying that Beaner is an operatic tenor and he does it for money.
This year he was abandoning LOOM temporarily — the Light Opera of Manhattan, if you're from out of town — for the Archival Opera Consortium, which was doing something by Donizetti called Maria Stuarda.
Which was why we were going to Lothlorien, a specialty bookstore (Things Celtic) that had survived Manhattan's misobiblic carnage through some oversight of the gods of urban renewal.
"And?" I said, because with Beaner the first sentence is never the whole story.
"Dearie, it's the usual. The soprano has a teeny substance abuse problem and a large attitude problem. Ken is a dear thing, but if we follow his blocking we'll all be impaled on pikes at the first exit. And then there's That Woman."
He shuddered dramatically and I laughed.
"That woman?" I asked, as I was meant to. "What woman?"
"Her," Beaner said. The distaste in his voice was suddenly real, not theatrical. "Mary. They're all raving Mariolators. I should have expected it, but if I have to hear one more person singing — you should pardon the expression — the praises of that round- heeled, dim-witted —"
"Mary? Bloody Mary Tudor?" I floundered.
Beaner stopped and patted my arm. "Mary Stuart. You should get out more. Bast, dear — and read some history that doesn't have Witches in it."
The rain had stopped and the sidewalks were fairly clear this far down. We began walking again, My elbow was left to its own devices.
"Mary Stuart." I sorted through my vast exposure to PBS miniseries and horrible movies that nevertheless contain the shining presence of Timothy Dalton. "Mary, Queen of Scots. Elizabeth's —"
"Cousin," Beaner interrupted, before I could say the wrong thing again. "Born 8 December, 1542, in Scotland, and a week later Papa died and she was Queen. Henry (that's the Eighth) wanted her for Edward, which would have been just perfect for England, but of course the Scots, oddly enough, did not wish to be an English province. So the adorable tot was smuggled off to France in 1548 and married Francis, heir to the French throne, in 1558. It must have been one hell of a Sweet Sixteen party. Widowed at the age of seventeen and went back to Scotland the same year — 1560 — where she ruled with such enormous ability that she was forced to run for her life eight years later," Beaner said. Venomously.
Maybe he was related to her travel agent.
"Anyway, she spent the next twenty years in an English prison as the centerpiece of plots formed by people who actually managed to be stupider than she was, and was executed in 1587, thank god."
I'm always impressed by people with a grasp of history that includes numbers. What I couldn't figure out was why Beaner was taking some bimbo who'd died before Boston was a city so personally.
"So she died four hundred years ago," I said.
"Four hundred eight," Beaner said promptly.
"You make it sound like she stepped out with your boyfriend last week."
"My boyfriends have much better taste," Beaner said, swanning it. We turned the corner and we were there.
"What the hell?" I said.
"Been awhile, has it?" Beaner said.
Lothlorien was in one of those buildings from the eighties — that's 1880s — that aren't landmarked simply because New York can afford to squander them; a Victorian pseudo-classical riot of columns and friezes and pillars in cast terra-cotta and painted wrought iron, with skylights, pressed-tin ceilings, leaded glass, and strange rotundas.
But urban elves had indeed been busy while Bast was off having a life. The building's Victorian detailing, formerly a dirty green, was now picked out in trés chic colors of biscuit, terra-cotta, and teal. Brasswork glittered. Windows gleamed. There was a For Lease sign in an upper window.
"Good-bye Lothlorien," Beaner said gloomily. "The new owners are jumping Ilona's rent."
I skittered across the street, Beaner in pursuit, and rushed inside. Lothlorien was still there, for the moment. I released a breath I hadn't known I was holding.
Lothlorien Books inhabits a space that is sixty by ninety, with eighteen-foot ceilings. Around three sides are built-in shelves that go almost all the way up, with a ladder that slides along rollers and tracks for reaching the shelves and their contents.
It takes a visitor some time to realize how large the place actually is because every available space is crammed with books, both in single spies and in battalions. Lothlorien's specialty, as intimated, is Things Celtic: new and used, antique and rare, paperback and hardcover.
I inhaled the smell of books. There was a tape playing over the sound system, something wailing and fey; Lothlorien had recently started carrying tapes. Clannad, Phoenyx, The Chieftains. Things Celtic.
"Ilona!" Beaner caroled, stepping around me toward the counter. The subject of his salutation came ducking out from behind the curtain leading into the back room.
Ilona Saunders is an expatriate Brit, and the closest thing to a Grand Old Dame that the New York Wiccan and Pagan Community can boast. She's been running Lothlorien for at least forty years at the same location and has come to HallowFest every year for the last ten, despite all of which, she is tactful to the point that for all anyone knows she may not be a Pagan at all. She was wearing a print shirtwaist and a shawl held in place by a Celticwork brooch and looked like everyone's kindly old white-haired nanny.
"Can I help —? Oh, it's you, dear. Come for your tapes? I was just brewing up. Would either of you care for a cup of tea?"
We both declined, and Ilona vanished behind the curtain again. I looked around. "Tapes?" Beaner hadn't told me what his special order was.
"Maria Stuarda," Beaner explained. "The Edinburgh Opera Received Version. One must do something."
Beaner leaned on the counter. I wandered around, looking at the new books. There were chairs for browsers, and most of the new stock was displayed on two vast oaken library tables in the center of the shop. I picked up a half dozen music tapes and a slipcased reproduction of The Book of Kells that I couldn't really afford.
Excerpted from Book of Moons by Rosemary Edghill. Copyright © 1995 Rosemary Edghill. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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