Friday, 18 October 2013

Book Review: Bellman & Black

Bellman & Black
Author: Diane Setterfield
Publication: Atria Books, November 5, 2013



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.


Note: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

Let me start by saying that I was so excited when I received an email asking me to read this book for review. Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale is one of those books I've been hanging on to forever, meaning to read, but for whatever reason never getting around to. I heard only wonderful things about it and have had it recommended to me over and over again by various people. The prospect of reading her very latest, in advance of publication got me very excited.

I was even more excited about the dark and mysterious synopsis that reminded me of something we might see from Carlos Ruiz Zafon, especially with Halloween coming up. Sadly, I was disappointed.

It started off hopeful... a tale of boys being boys... a little bit of a Poe vibe...

Then it just got weird-descriptions of birds that just felt out of place. And boring- loooooong periods of nothing at all happening other than a lot of sudden deaths and a hard-working main character who was completely unsympathetic.

There was a point about 1/3 of the way where I was ready to give up on this one. I wasn't even curious. In the end, guilt of abandoning a book that miiiiiiight potentially redeem itself won over. Fear of missing out? I pushed through and finished it, but it just wasn't worth it.

Above all- this is NOT a ghost story. Not by any definition I understand, anyway.

I'm not really sure what the author was trying to get across. If anything, I ended up confused, furrowing my brow, shaking my head and not looking forward to writing this review. I finished reading this 2 or 3 weeks ago now, and I've been putting off writing anything about it because I just don't know how to put into words what I read or experienced.

I suppose the best I can do is say that I just hope that one day I will get around to picking up The Thirteenth Tale, and I will be able to tell you how wonderful and glorious it is. As for Bellman & Black, the best I can say is, "meh" and shrug my shoulders.

As always, feel free to leave comments or questions down below- I would love to hear from you if you had a different experience with this one, have a recommendation, want more info, or just want to say "hi"!


  1. You and I felt exactly the same way. I thought the bird thing could be interesting if she actually chose to do something with it, but she really didn't, I wanted the daughter's drawings to have more meaning. I wanted ghosts, like the ones you and I expected to read about. I wanted some suspense. There was none to be had. But the cover... what a gorgeous cover. I want to frame that cover.

    So you haven't read Thirteenth yet? You are in for a real treat. It's great,

    1. Thank you for visiting and sharing your thoughts! I am so glad to hear I wasn't the only one out there in perpetual waiting-mode.

      I was also hoping to find out there was some meaning , to force myself to ask questions other than: "Where are we going with this?" or "When is 'it' going to happen?". I'm more sad than anything to have been so disappointed because the premise had such interesting potential.

      Thank you for the recommendation on Thirteenth Tale. Hopefully I will get around to it some time in the near future!