The story revolves around William Belllman, a man generously gifted by life. He is handsome, happily married, and the father of a small and loving brood of bright children. He is particularly gifted at the business of business and devotes most of his prodigious energy to it. He eventually becomes the successful owner of a cloth mill.
There is a small problem, however. William, as a lad, killed a rook with his slingshot. He didn't really mean to do it. He was just testing his prowess. But kill it he did, and the reader understands that he will have to atone for that one day.
And a time of tragedy ensues...William nearly loses everything he loves. In a moment of despair, he makes a strange bargain with a mysterious man whom he sees only on his darkest days. The results seem positive: a child is saved, and an idea for a very successful business is born. But both are won at a terrible cost.
And like Poe's Raven, that rook comes rap, rap, rapping....
Bellman & Black is hypnotic...moody, atmospheric, and lyrical. The author, Diane Setterfield (The Thirteenth Tale), perfectly evokes both time and place. The elaborate funeral rites of Victorian England are a perfect setting for a mystery. Setterfield builds the suspense so finely that I was surprised at the tension in my body once I became aware of it. Everything seems to be going well, yet the rooks are never far from our thoughts. The author reminds us of the link between the birds and man through little lessons she provides at the end of the three Parts. The imagery is superb: the doleful black of the rooks is echoed everywhere, even in hair color. And throughout, Williams' surname somberly tolls...
Hardcover, 336 pages
Expected publication: November 5th 2013 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books