Bell, Book, and Murder is an omnibus edition of three mysteries by Rosemary Edghill (the nom de plume of Eluki Bes Shahar), all with the same narrator: Bast, the goddess-name of Karen Hightower, a witch in NYC who works for a book paste-up operation just off Houston Street.
I’ve been rereading it today, and while nobody would call it “literature” in the same category as Joyce’s Ulysses, the novels are very well-written and a lot of fun to read.
More below the fold; but: what do you read for fun? Please answer in the comments. And if I disappear, it’s b/c I’ve been having major computer problems lately.
The first novel in the omnibus, Speak Daggers to Her, is perhaps the weakest. The story’s very good, the plotting and pacing are excellent, but the narrator’s tone is perhaps a bit too snide. Trying too hard to be funny? It doesn’t quite work…but the murder mystery part is a lot of fun…and (as in all three novels) if you’ve ever lived in NYC, there are recognizable places & types. Indeed, it made me nostalgic for the NYC of the late 1980s-early 1990s.
She also nods a lot to other genres, including science fiction and fantasy: so if you’re into genre fiction at all, you’ll enjoy playing the “I read that!” game. There are also oblique references to a bunch of different poets…it is a “gotcha” game. Not the world’s best murder mystery but extreme fun.
The second one, Book of Moons, is much stronger: Eluki has dropped much of the sarcasm that infected the first one (although there’s still plenty of humor in the telling) and focuses very strongly on the crimes.
One running theme is: Was Mary, Queen of Scots, a witch? Probably not…but that is the thread that ties together a bunch of other plotlines.
Eluki also adds more depth to her portrayal of the NY neopagan community in this novel: it is more thoughtful and less glib than the first one. A brief quote from the end of the story:
Magic or not?, so the question goes, but the real question isn’t, in the final analysis, what is there, but what we see. Reality is a consensus, arrived at through polling the testimony of individuals. Truth and reality are both in a constant state of mutation, and all anyone can do is ride the crest of his particular wave. Alone.
Book #3, The Bowl of Night, sees Bast to a neopagan gathering in upstate NY, where she finally gets to sleep with the guy she’s been lusting after through the first two novels.
No: the romance does not end well.
But the local color: NYC itself, a major character in the first two novels; the odd people who populate NYC’s fringes — and I knew a bunch of them, although my acquaintances mostly weren’t neopagans — well, it is in these details that the author nails it. And while I was never involved with the neopagan community, her descriptions ring true.
Now: please, what are you reading just for fun? And why do you like it?