Wednesday, September 18, 2013

'Bellman and Black'

I have been very busy, lately.  Not only am I working extra hard at my job for a non-profit, but I am now doing our Ebay listings.  It's amazing what we've found, what treasures people have donated.  When I hold a sweet little teacup and saucer, I immediately think, "This one was in someone's collection.  Did someone's grandma die?"  I then wonder if that person's personality is imprinted on the object.  I know, I

That brings me to Diane Setterfield's new book, 'Bellman and Black'.  I'm a huge, huge fan of her first novel, 'The Thirteenth Tale', an atmospheric story that is full of gothic undertones and dark secrets.  A novel I could not put down.  A story I've read at least six times.

So, I was more than excited to learn that she had a new novel coming out.  I requested an advance reader's copy, and lo and behold!  It arrived before I knew it!

I settled on the couch with a cozy blanket (even though it's Summer with the hottest temps we've experienced in  few years), a cup of tea, and numerous cats hanging out on my stomach.  I opened the book and started to read...

...and I continued into the night.  And the morning.

And I set it aside.  Horrors!  I had not done that with Diane's first book.  In fact, I read it in (almost) one sitting.

But I'm sorry to say that 'Bellman and Black' did not give me the payoff that I was expecting.  It's labelled a 'ghost story', and I wondered throughout, "Where is the ghost?  Is it the rook?  If it is, why is it not...ghostly?"

When he was but a boy, William Bellman kills a rook with his slingshot.  He and his friends are but a tad remorseful, but the act is soon forgotten, yet it holds terrible consequences.   When William is grown, and he has a wife and family, he soon finds that his act has caught up with him.  He loses almost everyone he holds dear, although his work life has progressed well beyond his dreams.  But when the last precious thing he has is threatened, he enters into a bargain that could be his undoing.  He soon has a partner in a rather macabre business, and that is when Bellman and Black is born.

Diane's characters are well represented and fully-fleshed, and her insights are quite remarkable, especially her insights into the human psyche.  But it was the ghost I was waiting for, the ghost that would ultimately lead to the pay-off.

But, I'm sad to say, it took forever to reach that point.  

True, it's atmospheric and rather creepy.  And, yes, I was worried about William's sleep patterns.  But I was waiting for more.  More Mr. Black.  

Dear, brilliant, Diane:  Please give me more next time.

'Bellman and Black' will be released on October 8, 2013 from Emily Bestler Books, an imprint of Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.  Find it at your library and local independent bookstore.  Then, tell Book Hog what you think!

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