Edghill, Rosemary: Speak Daggers to Her (Bast Mysteries 1) (1994)

I will speak daggers to her, but use none. (Hamlet: III,ii)

 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)

“Miriam’s dead.”

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:

“… There’s this weird stuff, and I’ve got to see you. … It’s too weird. I’m scared. I think they’re going to – ” The voice stopped abruptly, …

Miriam had been the kind of person who wanted desperately to be part of the occult society. She wanted “The Truth” yet never found it. Each failure brought her into contact with stranger and stranger pagan traditions. She and Bast had eventually become semi-friends, so there was no real reason for Bast to involve herself. Except for that claw and the message from Miriam. Those factors worried Bast and would not leave her alone. Then Bast finds a book of spells with a picture of Miriam being torn in two. Add to that a mysterious phone call and Bast wants to find out if there was anything suspicious about Miriam’s death. Because nothing about the body indicated there would be. But guilt has its own way of gnawing at us, and guilt was Bast’s entry into the world of detection.

Speak Daggers to Her is not about magic, although we do learn a great deal about what being a modern witch entails. We also get a look at coercive groups within Neo-paganism. Groups that use the tools that abusive partners and leaders have always used, grooming and secrecy, and regular people doing things they thought they never would.

I bought the omnibus Bell, Book, and Murder and liked the stories so much I gave a friend of mine a paperback copy. Definitely recommended.


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You may buy Bell, Book and Murder at Amazon

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