Bellman & Black is one of the older books in my ARC queue and I remember being quite interested in this because of the publicity calling this a ‘perfect’ ghost story. But this is not a ghost story. Not really. This is a moody, atmospheric tale of a consumed living man.
As a boy, William Bellman killed a crow. Although the bird was his target, he never expected to actually hit it. And so begins a life of doing things that he never really expected to do. And slowly (ohhhh, very slowly) he sees the people around him die. At each funeral he spies a man in black just smiling at him. It is strange, but he doesn’t think too much on this until the death of his wife. Bellman loses control and in a drunken stopper, visits his wife’s newly filled grave. And of course the man in black is there and makes Bellman an offer that he can’t refuse. He must open a particular business to be called Bellman & Black.
But as the success of the business grows and the strange Mr. Black remains absent, Bellman worries that he might be doing something wrong. He carefully sets aside the money Mr. Black is owed for his part in the business, but is it enough? What does Mr. Black really want? When will he show up?
It’s been a long time since I read a book that had received a lot of hype and generally good reviews when it came out and was actually this dull.
There is nothing … nothing … here to make this worth reading. The story is … well, there is no story. It seems to be more a character study. Which is fine, except that the character is dull. Imagine if Flaubert had written a book about Dr. Bovary and he hadn’t been married to Emma … no one would have cared a whit about him, and that’s how it is with Bellman. And the rest of the characters in the book? They are names on paper only. There is nothing to any of them to make us think that we have any reason to care about them.
The opening chapter – Bellman killing the crow – was interesting enough to have me want to read more, but ti didn’t take long for me to want something to happen. Half way through I wanted something to happen. Two thirds of the way through, I wanted something to happen. Three quarters in – I wanted something to happen or a reason to keep reading. From then on, I just wanted it to be over.
Looking for a good book? You won’t find it with Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story
author: Diane Setterfield
publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
hardcover, 328 pages