Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield is a dark story that tells of a young boy who kills a rook while out with his friends. This killing of this bird in turn haunts him the rest of his life in a very peculiar way – in the form of a man in black who seems to turn up at different points in this now grown man’s life.
William by all accounts has a good life with a wife and children along with a thriving business. However things start to go downhill fast when everyone around him begins to die and at each funeral the man in black is there. Left with only one daughter who barely survived William throws himself into his work. He seems to be successful at anything he puts his mind to but as time passes he begins to obsess more over the man in the black to the point of even opening a business and calling it Bellman & Black. Can William gain redemption by trying to appease the man in black?
Years ago I read Diane Setterfield’s last novel The Thirteenth Tale with my book club and we all loved it but Bellman & Black was just ok for me. It didn’t seem to have the same special something but I listened to the audiobook of Bellman & Black which is narrated by Jack Davenport and he saved this book for me. I’m not sure I would have continued if I had been reading it in print but I did enjoy the tone and nuances of Jack Davenport’s voice. He has a smooth and melodic voice that I thought lent really well to the atmosphere of this novel.
I’m sure that this novel will appeal to many with its dark and gothic feel. I’d love to hear what others thought of this book of Diane Setterfield’s if you’ve read it.
Buy at: Simon & Schuster, Audible, and iTunes
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher. No compensation was received for this review and all opinions are my own.
JoAnn @ Lakeside Musing says
Yours is not the first “just OK” reaction I’ve seen… The Thirteenth Tale is a tough act to follow!
JoAnn, I’ve read a lot of the same type of responses to this book as I had as well. It’s too bad because Thirteenth Tale was so amazing.
bermudaonion (Kathy) says
My sister felt the same way about this book.
Kathy, a lot of people have felt the same. I’m not sorry I listened to it because I’m sure the audio made it more interesting for me but I have to admit I was hoping for something like her first book.
The library has it, so yay 🙂
Gotta love the library for having the newer books Linda. My library is pretty good for that too.
Literary Feline says
It seems like this one is disappointing quite a few people. I do want to read it at some point. I like Gothic novels and perhaps knowing what not to expect, I might like it more than I would have otherwise. From your review, it sounds like the audio is the way to go regardless!
Wendy, maybe people just expected too much after The Thirteenth Tale. I don’t know. I do think the audio is the way to go because it did keep my interest enough to finish it and enjoy it somewhat.
Darlene, this audiobook sounds dark and engaging. It reminds me of Poe’s short fiction (even though this one is a full length novel). Very nice, concise review.
Susan, the novel is dark. That was one thing that attracted me about it. I enjoy novels like that.
If it wasn’t for loving The Thirteenth Tale, I may not have stuck with the book. It was just okay for me. Glad the audio was a bit better.
Nise, it seems many have felt the same way. The audio did keep my attention where I’m not sure the book would have.
Diana Leigh says
It was just okay for me too. I think I missed the point of the story, but I did like the Gothic atmosphere and Jack Davenport’s narration.
Diana, I wondered the same. If maybe I was just missing the whole point of the story but it seems so many feel the same way about the book so I don’t think so. I thought Davenport did a great job of narrating it as well.
I just discovered your blog yesterday and have added you to my reading list and blog roll. I enjoyed The Thirteenth Tale but Bellman & Black was terrible.
Rhiannon, thanks for visiting the blog. I hope to see you often! I agree, The Thirteenth Tale was great and this one just so so for me.
Laura Fabiani says
I think I’m going to skip this one.
Laura, if you do ever decide to give it a go try the audio.
Anna (Diary of an Eccentric) says
I thought the Thirteenth Tale was pretty good. Setterfield’s writing captivated me more than the actual story, even though that was mostly interesting, too. It certainly was an odd book. I’ll probably skip this one because I’m not drawn in by the summary, but at least you enjoyed the narrator’s voice. 🙂