Failure of Moonlight is a collection of three short stories, a novella, and a brief essay starring Bast, the snarky New York Wiccan protagonist of Rosemary Edghill’s BAST mystery series. All four of the fiction pieces have appeared elsewhere, but this is the first time they’ve been published together. Failure of Moonlight is only available currently as an e-book, costs about two dollars as I write this, and is well worth the price.
“Advice from a Young Witch to an Old Priestess” originally appeared in the anthology Maiden, Matron, Crone edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Kerrie Hughes. I had not previously read this story. This story fills in some background about Bast’s early years in New York, her relationship with Lark, and how she came to know Belle. It gives some insights into how she formed her personal ethical code and why she felt so uneasy about having the power of rejection over Miriam and Ned in the novels. It’s a quick read and breezes along quickly through its timeline, but you’ll come away from it with a weird combination of feeling like you know Bast better than before, and feeling like you still don’t quite know her. She’s a character who keeps a lot to herself.
“A Winter’s Tale” was first printed in Denise Little’s anthology The Magic Shop. Bast is helping Lark unpack some boxes at the Snake, New York’s tackiest occult shop, when they find an unusual object that reminds Lark of a creepy anecdote about his time out West. This is an eerie little story that I recently read on Edghill’s blog — in fact, it was by finding this story that I found her blog, clicked around, and learned of the existence of Failure of Moonlight.
“The Iron Bride” appeared in Words of the Witches, edited by Yvonne Jocks. I read that anthology, and “The Iron Bride,” some years ago, but I reread the story and liked it better this time around. I think I was disappointed, back then, that it wasn’t really a mystery (there’s only one suspect), and it fit oddly with the other stories in the anthology. Rereading it, I was able to appreciate it more for what it was, which is not exactly a mystery but a philosophical look at how people deal with finding out things they don’t want to know. The phrase “iron bride” refers to truth, and in this story both the murderer and Bast have to deal with inconvenient truths. It’s a good story, and a thought-provoking one.
The novella, “Burden of Guilt,” originally appeared in Mystery in Mind, a collection of paranormal stories that was put out by the Rhine Research Center. Here is the most awesome thing about Failure of Moonlight: the longest story in it is also the one you’re least likely to have already read, since Mystery in Mind was rather obscure. So, even if you’ve devoured the other three, you’re getting a big hearty Bast story for two bucks. In “Burden of Guilt,” Bast is roped into vending the Snake’s wares at a chi-chi New Age convention, the fluffiness of which is hilarious when viewed through Bast’s cynical eyes. And then, because Bast is rather like a Wiccan version of Jessica Fletcher, of course someone is murdered. Like some of the other BAST tales, there aren’t a lot of potential suspects and there aren’t a ton of twists; the focus is more on what the crime tells Bast about the dark side of human nature.
Edghill ends the book with a short essay, written around the same time she wrote Speak Daggers to Her, which explains a little about how she got the idea and came to put it to paper. She also talks a little about the type of detective she sees Bast as, and why.
If you have not yet read the BAST mystery trilogy (shown to the right), you should read that first, as there’s at least one major spoiler in Failure of Moonlight. But then after you’ve done that, definitely check out this collection to get some more insight into the character, along with some chills and some laughs. And if you’ve already read the trilogy, what are you waiting for?