Bellman & Black - Diane Setterfield I received this book as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Real rating: 1.5

I’m really conflicted about this book. Writing wise, there’s absolutely, positively nothing wrong about this book. I liked the author's other book The Thirteenth Tale too.

This is a major case of “It’s not you, it’s me.” To be honest, I skimmed the last 30% of this book, and I really can’t say much of what happened because I did not care.

This book follows William Bellman, who accidentally kills a rook (crow, for those of you, like me, who only use the word rook in chess) when he’s little. Crows essentially remember this and proceed to kill everyone and then he makes a deal with someone and then I stopped caring.

Really, it’s not this book’s fault. I’m just not the audience for this. I read the word “ghost” in the summary and perked up. I like ghosts. Who doesn’t like ghosts? I love ghost stories more than anything because ghosts are these paranormal beings that get away with a lot of shit.

This is not a ghost story.

This is a character study. Which is fine. If you like character studies, read this book. It’s a great book for people who like character studies.

I don’t. I hate them.

This book spends a majority of the time detailing Bellman’s work at the mill and how good he is, all the calculations he runs in his head, what he does to keep the grief away. I don’t care.

Who cares about the mill and the work? I want to see these crows go crazy on Bellman! I want to see them sneakily assassinating everyone and killing all hope and love and being evil.


That’s a creepy ass bird that will literally alter their flight routes if one of their group is killed. I’m not joking. Crows can remember faces. They can stalk. This story should be one of the creepiest things ever.

It’s not. It’s a lot about Bellman at the mill. Entire chapters of him at the mill, his wife’s death? Hardly mentioned. Suddenly you’re at her funeral.

But the major problem with this book is that I hated the writing style. It was like if Edgar Allan Poe wrote sober. It lacked passion. You never connected with the characters. The prologue told you that everyone was going to die.


Authors, please listen to me, if you tell me the ending of your book in the prologue, your book lacks all the bite. Yeah, we can read to find out what happens, but the surprise is gone. The tension is gone.


But even with that, the way it’s written just seems too…nonchalant. “Bellman went here and they died” sort of thing. Like I said, the writing just lacks passion. You can’t connect with Bellman because the style doesn’t allow it.

So I guess, now that I’m thinking about it, this book doesn’t even work as a character study. If you can’t connect with the characters, then I just don’t see how this book is going to work for people who do like character studies.

There’s very little in the way of plot. The characters are boring, Dora’s the only one who manages to be interesting. The only thing this book has going for it is very lyrical writing.

And lots and lots about how Bellman is a really great mill worker and manager and everything he does is brilliant.

I just got this feeling that the author cared either very little about this or far too much. She was trying to follow writing styles of Poe and Shelley but forgoes character and plot.

If solid writing is enough to get you interested, then by all means read this book. If it’s not, I’d avoid it. But if you’re looking for an old fashioned ghost story with passionate writing, check out any of Edgar Allan Poe’s writing, and Frankenstein will give you plot and wonderful characters with the same writing style.