[ARC Review] Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

cvr9781476711959_9781476711959_lgTitle: Bellman & Black
Author: Diane Setterfield
Format: Kindle eGalley  
Genre: Historical Fiction; Thriller; Ghost Story
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
ISBN: 9781476711959
Release Date: 5 November 2013
Rating: ⭐ ⭐

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I received Bellman & Black as an advanced, uncorrected reader’s proof from the publisher.  I really wanted to enjoy this as according to the synopsis it had all the elements that would make for a really great ghost story or horror story or thriller, but sadly it falls short.

At times I felt as though I was reading Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol. William Bellman has a very distinct Scrooge-like characteristic. He is always with his abacus, always crunching numbers, and always coming up with ways to make more money.  The only difference between Bellman and Scrooge is that Bellman treated his employees with the utmost respect from the beginning.  Black when the reader finally ‘meets’ him is an amalgamation of the three spirits.  He forces Bellman to remember the events of his life that caused him pain (i.e. the deaths of his loved ones).  He also forces him to remember killing the rook.

The rook and black bird references were quite heavy-handed and tiresome.  Setterfield’s writing style is solid and beautifully descriptive, but the plot is thin and went nowhere.  I found myself asking “what was the rather strange bargain that Bellman entered in to?”  And even after finishing I still don’t know what the bargain is.  Setterfield does a wonderful job in describing the mill, the emporium, and the rooks.  These descriptions drag on-and-on until they are boring.

The characters are seriously underdeveloped and flat.  Connecting with any of them is impossible as Setterfield doesn’t give you enough of any character to make a connection.  You never see the characters develop into anything.  We know through Bellman that his daughter, Dora, is helping out at the mill and doing the accounting for the baker; however we have absolutely no idea how that came to pass.  It’s brought up in passing.  The reader sees Bellman devolve but that’s it as far as character development.  The workers hint that Bellman and Black are one in the same.  And often times when Bellman is questioned about Mr. Black, he tells them that it’s no one; so Setterfield leaves Mr. Black’s identity ambiguous.  Is Mr. Black real or a figment of Bellman’s imagination? Is Black an apparition of the rook in human form he so callously killed as a child?

After reading Bellman and Black I was left dissatisfied.

Even though I didn’t enjoy this, I still plan on reading The Thirteenth Tale.

3 thoughts on “[ARC Review] Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

  1. Dianne August 26, 2014 / 9:58 pm

    I didn’t like this one either. Like you I found the characters flat, the descriptions long and the whole thing a little too weird. But, I liked The Thirteenth Tale very much. It was so good that I waited impatiently for Bellman and Black to come out and was terribly disappointed when I read it. Do read The Thirteenth Tale. I think you’ll like it better.


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