Bellman & Black
By Diane Setterfield
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, 2013
Audience: Adults, Older Teens
Bellman & Black is a heart-thumpingly perfect ghost story, beautifully and irresistibly written, its ratcheting tension exquisitely calibrated line by line. Its hero is William Bellman, who, as a boy of 11, killed a shiny black rook with a catapult, and who grew up to be someone, his neighbours think, who "could go to the good or the bad." And indeed, although William Bellman's life at first seems blessed—he has a happy marriage to a beautiful woman, becomes father to a brood of bright, strong children, and thrives in business—one by one, people around him die. And at each funeral, he is startled to see a strange man in black, smiling at him. At first, the dead are distant relatives, but eventually his own children die, and then his wife, leaving behind only one child, his favourite, Dora. Unhinged by grief, William gets drunk and stumbles to his wife's fresh grave—and who should be there waiting, but the smiling stranger in black. The stranger has a proposition for William—a mysterious business called "Bellman & Black" .
I don’t know how much older teens will like this in general, but they could definitely read it as a transition book.
I’m really glad I had a chance to read this. This was beautifully written and I really enjoyed reading it. However, at the end I felt like I missed something important. I knew it was about death and I knew the ghost story wasn’t supposed to be an obvious, modern version of a ghost story. It just didn’t feel like it all came together at the end, but it was so well-written and planned out - that’s why I felt like I must have missed something... but I don’t think I did.
Try this one when you have a lot of patience and don’t need a lot of action.