Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

Diane Setterfield, Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story. New York: Atria Books, 2013. 337 pages. ISBN 9781476711959.

As a big fan of Ms. Setterfield's first book, The Thirteenth Tale, I was really looking forward to reading her new novel. It had a promising start, with a young boy who kills a rook, setting in motion...something. We're never sure what exactly, except that one by one, everyone around him dies. But this action takes place over decades, and isn't that what happens to everyone over time? When William, the boy in question, kills the rook, he thinks that he sees a young boy near the dead rook. Since the book is subtitled "A Ghost Story" it seemed to me that this mysterious boy would come to haunt William. But the story goes in another direction, with a mysterious man appearing at funerals, and William is the only person who can see this "Mr. Black." I thought for a while that Mr. Black is death himself, the grim reaper, coming to claim his victims. It never really becomes clear, and the story meanders all over the place. The ending is unsatisfying.

Ms. Setterfield is a good writer, but I wish she had come up with something a little more substantial for her second effort. I'm afraid that most readers will be slightly disappointed in this book.

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