“I have heard it said, by those that cannot possibly know, that in the final moments of a man’s existence he sees his whole life pass before his eyes. If that were so, a cynic might assume William Bellman’s last moments to have been spent contemplating anew the lengthy series of calculations, contracts and business deals that made up his existence….What he unearthed, after it had lain buried some forty years in the archaeology of his mind, was a rook.”

Diane Setterfield, Bellman and Black


Publisher Description

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Thirteenth Tale comes a dark and mesmerizing ghost story guaranteed to haunt you to your very core.

As a boy, William Bellman commits one small, cruel act: killing a bird with his slingshot. Little does he know the unforeseen and terrible consequences of the deed, which is soon forgotten amidst the riot of boyhood games. By the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his own, William seems to be a man blessed by fortune—until tragedy strikes and the stranger in black comes. Then he starts to wonder if all his happiness is about to be eclipsed. Desperate to save the one precious thing he has left, William enters into a rather strange bargain, with an even stranger partner, to found a decidedly macabre business.

And Bellman & Black is born.

My Recommendation

Do you enjoy dark, gothic, historic tales?

Do you enjoy novels that span a lifetime?

Are you preoccupied with, fascinated by, or frightened of black birds?

My answer to all of these questions is YES, and if you too have strange fascinations and phobias, I highly recommend BELLMAN AND BLACK.

Setterfield’s first novel, THE THIRTEENTH TALE, was a marvelously creepy and Poe-like book, and BELLMAN AND BLACK continues in that tradition. However, this second novel is even more meticulously crafted, entrancing, and unsettling than Setterfield’s first.

Framed in small writings on the nature and legend of rooks, each section of BELLMAN AND BLACK represents the nature of men. At the novel’s inception, we meet William Bellman, a young boy who kills a rook with a slingshot. Without understanding why, he and the boys in his company are forever haunted by the incident.

William grows up and achieves a high degree of success in business, but comes to understand that all is not in his control. The empires he creates are stained and shadowed, and while he does not understand why, William senses that all debts will be settled in the end.

There are no shocking climactic moments in BELLMAN AND BLACK, but rather a deepening sense of understanding and awe of the extreme powerlessness we all face, or will one day face, the conquering of pride, and the notion that something exists outside of humanity with far more weight than we can ever hope to hold.

As a book that begs to be pondered and discussed, BELLMAN AND BLACK would make an excellent book club selection. Fans of gothic historical novels will be enthralled by BELLMAN AND BLACK.


5 thoughts on “Book Review: BELLMAN AND BLACK

  1. I tried to get into the this book, couldn’t, and was about to give it away, but based on your review, I’ll give it another chance. Your post arrived just in the nick of time!

  2. […] Bellman & Black, by Diane Setterfield […]

  3. sissy says:

    I finished it and loved it. But, I can’t help feeling like maybe Bellman was dead all along from the time his family was sick and that in dying, he had this crazy dream about the only child still living when he died. It mentioned that he sat by the fire and his little girl reached up and closed his eyes. . . . .

    Am I the only one who thinks that?

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