Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Bellman and Black


Author: Diane Setterfield
Genre: Supernatural, Suspense
Type: ARC (Kindle e-book)
Source: NetGalley
To Be Published: November 5, 2013
Publisher: Atria Books
First Line: "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."

Description from GoodReadsCaught up in a moment of boyhood competition, William Bellman recklessly aims his slingshot at a rook resting on a branch, killing the bird instantly. It is a small but cruel act, and is soon forgotten. By the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his own, William seems to have put the whole incident behind him. It was as if he never killed the thing at all. But rooks don’t forget...

Years later, when a stranger mysteriously enters William’s life, his fortunes begin to turn—and the terrible and unforeseen consequences of his past indiscretion take root. In a desperate bid to save the only precious thing he has left, he enters into a rather strange bargain, with an even stranger partner. Together, they found a decidedly macabre business.

And Bellman and Black is born.


Disclaimer: I sincerely wish to thank Atria Books and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) e-book in exchange for my honest review.

My Review:  While I have, of course, heard of author Diane Setterfield I must come clean and sheepish admit that I haven't yet picked up her highly acclaimed "Thirteenth Tale".  Shocking, I know.  But due to the praise I read from other readers about her first book I eagerly requested this book, Bellman and Black, from NetGalley to review it.

I must preface this review by stating that I'm not a connoisseur of ghost stories.  In fact, I was a little leery of requesting this book to review because, let's face it, I'm a wuss.  But while the book is very atmospheric and has a strong gothic feel, it wasn't nearly as eerie or scary as I was expecting from a touted 'ghost story'.  Either I'm not as wussy as I thought or this wasn't as chilling as I was hoping.  Unfortunately I believe the latter to be true.

When I began this book I was fully expecting to be immersed in this book for two full days leaving my family to wash their own clothes and eat canned soup and grilled cheese because Mom had her head in a book instead of doing laundry or whipping up something delish for supper.  Unfortunately, this book started off slow and never really took off for me.  While my family was happy to eat like kings in clean clothes those nights I was left a little disappointed that Ms Setterfield didn't draw me into her story as much as I was expecting.

In my mind there is no debate about the fact that this book is well written.  It has beautifully descriptive writing about the era, mills and Bellman's mourning emporium.  Unfortunately, the storyline never gets the momentum it sorely needed resulting in the plot feeling thin the entire way through.  

I think the story got too bogged down in the details describing the business side of Bellman's life in the mill and the shop.  Sure, I found some of the information interesting on how to run a mill and what people wore during their mourning period but I kept hoping that something big and macabre would suddenly happen to move the story along.  There's only so much one can read about mourning attire before it gets to be too much.

I also felt unsatisfied with the character development, the pace and the resolution of the story.  Maybe it's just me but I never really 'got' who Black really was or what the agreement was between the two men which left me feeling very unfulfilled as a reader.  He wasn't even all that menacing.  And while we get a clear idea about Bellman, the secondary characters felt neglected and not used to their potential (like Lizzie or Dora).

Overall, this book is well written but not nearly as macabre or chilling as I was expecting.  While the author sets the scenes with vivid descriptions and the premise is interesting I never felt like the book grabbed my interest or got deeper than the book description provided on the cover.  Since I feel that this book didn't stand out for me (and will soon be forgotten) I couldn't in good conscience give it a higher rating.

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

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