Book Review: Bellman & Black

October 25, 2013 Whitney Review 4 Comments

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Bellman & BlackBellman & Black
Author Diane Setterfield
Publisher Atria
Publication Date November 5, 2013
Source: Netgalley

Bellman & Black is a heart-thumpingly perfect ghost story, beautifully and irresistibly written, its ratcheting tension exquisitely calibrated line by line. Its hero is William Bellman, who, as a boy of 10, killed a shiny black rook with a catapult, and who grew up to be someone, his neighbours think, who "could go to the good or the bad." And indeed, although William Bellman's life at first seems blessed—he has a happy marriage to a beautiful woman, becomes father to a brood of bright, strong children, and thrives in business—one by one, people around him die. And at each funeral, he is startled to see a strange man in black, smiling at him. At first, the dead are distant relatives, but eventually his own children die, and then his wife, leaving behind only one child, his favourite, Dora. Unhinged by grief, William gets drunk and stumbles to his wife's fresh grave—and who should be there waiting, but the smiling stranger in black. The stranger has a proposition for William—a mysterious business called "Bellman & Black" . . .

I was greatly anticipating Diane Setterfield’s  next novel as soon as I put down The Thirteenth Tale. the writing style was intoxicating and held perfect suspense.  I was expecting the same caliber with Bellman & Black.  I received the same beautiful writing but the suspense I was looking for was not.  I know it is not fair to compare one novel to another, but it was a bit of a let down.  The storyline stayed on the same note throughout and left me waiting for something to happen.  It never reached a higher octave.  Despite the fact that lots, and lots of people close to William tragically died it got repetitive, someone dies William works, a second person dies William works harder, a third he works harder, until he’s eventually married to his job.

The rise of his business was interesting but I wish there had been more of those moments, instead I found Scrooge counting his money late into the night, but unlike Scrooge his heart of ice never melted.  Bellman and Black was the story of William Black’s life, I understand that life is not eventful from beginning to end but I felt like there was something missing.  While Bellman and Black did contain the elegant writing that was expected I felt the storyline did not match and just fell flat.


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4 responses to “Book Review: Bellman & Black

  1. Awww 🙁 I was on the fence about reading this one. I think I will hold off for now but I loved your review. It was very fair and helped me make a decision!

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