A Review of Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield


Caught up in a moment of boyhood competition, William Bellman recklessly aims his slingshot at a rook resting on a branch, killing the bird instantly. It is a small but cruel act, and is soon forgotten. By the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his own, William seems to have put the whole incident behind him. It was as if he never killed the thing at all. But rooks don’t forget . . .

Years later, when a stranger mysteriously enters William’s life, his fortunes begin to turn—and the terrible and unforeseen consequences of his past indiscretion take root. In a desperate bid to save the only precious thing he has left, he enters into a rather strange bargain, with an even stranger partner. Together, they found a decidedly macabre business.

And Bellman & Black is born. 

Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books (November 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 147671195X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476711959

Bellman & Black is a story dealing with a boy making  the wrong choice at the wrong time and paying for it with a lifetime of punishment. It seems that the only 'macabre' aspect to this entire story is the business itself that the adult William Bellman goes into with Mr. Black. Although, this is tagged as a 'ghost story,' I didn't find it very haunting nor very telling, I'm sorry to say. You see, we meet little boy William Bellman immediately, his entire family, and most of 'Bellman & Black' pertains to the family business of running a mill in rural England. Far too much of this story centers around knowing every dull aspect of the family business.  I feel as if I've been on a lecture about running and working at a mill while meeting the entire Bellman Family. I know their struggles, their fears, their aspirations and how they all meet their end while poor, haunted, grief stricken William seems helpless to know how to stop it!  By the time the reader has met this 'figure' William sees, it isn't until far into part two and three of the book. I still know nothing about Mr. Black besides why he's been watching William Bellman all his life and we found that out in the very beginning. There are no real 'macabre' surprises or factors here and I was hoping for more of a better ghost story. There were some tinges of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol to William Bellman's ghost story, juxtaposed to some well written passages about grief and loss but other than that, Wilkie Collins and Edgar Allan Poe did it best and Bellman & Black came up short!  I got no chills running down my spine and I figured out what was going to happen far too soon. Also, annoying were the chapters with the '&' symbol interjected within regular chapters. All they did were give the reader a mythological background on the rook or crow or raven, whatever you should call it!  It did nothing for the plot of the story, interesting as it was. For me, all it did was give an indication that another death was coming, no real surprise there! 


Ti said…
It was a huge disappointment. My review just posted today and I hate to write negative reviews but this one could have been so much better.
Kimberly Eve said…
Hi Ti, thanks for commenting. I wish we didn't agree on this but such a disappointment! So much of the storyline left unanswered; some characters not fully fleshed out, etc.

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