Six years ago, recommended to me by my friend Keri, I read a book called The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. It was one of those books that stayed with me long after finishing it and over the past few years I’ve often googled the name of the author in the hope that she had written another book; an unfounded hope until recently.
When I saw on Twitter that Diane Setterfield was publishing a second novel I was thrilled; and when I heard it was a ghost story entitled Bellman & Black I soon became more intrigued. It tells the tale of William Bellman, who, as a young boy kills a rook with a catapult. A small act of cruelty, the event is soon forgotten amidst the riot of boyhood games. The book then follows William as he first works at his uncle’s mill, marries and becomes a father but is repeatedly struck by tragedy as those closest to him die.
After an encounter with the mysterious Mr Black, whose character floats in and out of the novel, Bellman builds a mourning emporium, named, as is the title of the book, Bellman & Black and throws all his energies into the building of his empire. So driven by success and ambition, Will hardly pauses to reflect on his life and mourn his loved ones until his life takes another unexpected turn as he realises there is still a debt to be repaid.
Part moral fable, part gothic tale, Bellman and Black is a compelling read that will delight fans of Setterfield’s. Both absorbing and beautifully written, Diane Setterfield has produced the perfect follow-on from her previous bestseller.