Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Bellman & Black: A Novel” as Want to Read:
Bellman & Black: A Novel
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Preview
Read Excerpt* *Different edition

Bellman & Black: A Novel

3.02 of 5 stars 3.02  ·  rating details  ·  8,011 ratings  ·  2,172 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published June 10th 2014 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books (first published 2013)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Bellman & Black, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Melanie I finished the book in 2 days. I enjoy books that make you think and beg for you to read between the lines. After you finish, go to the website purple…moreI finished the book in 2 days. I enjoy books that make you think and beg for you to read between the lines. After you finish, go to the website purple car.net and read her review. Also, I agree that the use of the word "ghost" story was misleading and suggest maybe an "eerie" tale instead??(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
If you loved The Thirteenth Tale, as I did, Bellman and Black will feel like it wasn't even written by the same author. I stayed with it through page 161. That's over half the book, so I gave it a fair shot, and way more of my time than it deserved. What is the stinking point of the story? Nothing happens. A lot of people die, but Setterfield doesn't make you care about them. If you want to read a boring novel about the textile industry, this is exactly the book you've been waiting for.
Leanne
The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield's first novel, was released in 2006 and was, in my opinion, fantastic. In the following years, as I do with all newly discovered favourite authors, I kept a close eye out for any news regarding upcoming novels. Every few months, I would hopefully Google "Diane Setterfield 2nd novel" and little would come up. And so, I've had 7 years (7 years! Not as bad as Donna Tartt's every-10-years record, and on par with Marisha Pessl, but still!) to anticipate and hype ...more
Dem
2.5 stars


Bellman and Black is the long awaited novel from Diane Setterfield and like others I could not wait to get my hands on this gothic story.

I love the title of this novel and the cover as it gives a mysterious quality to the book before the reader even begins the story.

As a child William Bellman while out playing with his friends commits one small cruel act killing a bird with his slingshot. Little does he know that this action will bring on consequences in his adult life that he will h
...more
Sunny
A Ghost Story. Pffttt! A ghost story my ass. How did that even get IN the title here? Because, it's not ANYWHERE in my book. Not on the cover. Not on the title page. Nowhere. It's Bellman & Black, A Novel. Full stop. No mention of 'A Ghost Story'. Anywhere.

I feel so cheated.

Imagine me, a grown woman, throwing myself onto the floor, kicking my feet, pounding my fists, and screaming in frustration. That just about perfectly describes the tantrum I envisioned myself having at the end. Because,
...more
Nancy Oakes
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Virginie
Feb 16, 2011 Virginie marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I have been eagerly waiting for a second book by Setterfield, hope it will be as engrossing as the first one!
Robert
I’d have to say it’s rather difficult to describe my emotional state after finishing BELLMAN & BLACK: A GHOST STORY. On the one hand, this was a well-written, slowly developing story that caused me to contemplate the consequences of all my actions, not just the major, life changing experiences; on the other, it did have ghostly elements, but when I picture a ghost story, this isn’t exactly what I have in mind. It’s more of a literary ghost story where you realize the ghosts are there, but th ...more
Blair
English author Diane Setterfield's debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale, was a big seller in America, reaching #1 in the charts. I didn't actually know this when I read it: I happened upon it at the library, thought it sounded like my kind of thing, and really enjoyed reading it, although I didn't find it particularly remarkable. Subsequently finding out about Setterfield's huge success in the US made me more interested in the author's next move than I probably would have been otherwise, and when I ...more
Patrice Hoffman
I don't remember being any more conflicted with a review rating as I am with Diane Setterfield's latest Bellman & Black. On one hand it's beautifully written and on the other, I just felt so hollow inside upon finishing it. After reading rave reviews for her bestseller The Thirteenth Tale I may have set the bar too high but... where can you go wrong when the word Ghost is a part of its title?

William Bellman is 11 when the story begins and progresses with him as an adult. Everything about Be
...more
Rob Slaven
As usual, I received this book not through actually purchasing it but because someone gave it to me for review. In this case the book came from a galley giveaway on ShelfAwareness. Despite that kind consideration I'm still not afraid to roast even a free book with a scathing review. Luckily in this case, no such conflagration is necessary.

Firstly, it should be noted that I religiously avoid reading the back jackets of books, so going into this one I had only the cover and the subtitle "A ghost s
...more
Phrynne
I had read the reviews for this and was aware that many people did not like it so I started in with fear and trepidation. All unfounded because I really enjoyed it! It took a while to get into the story but by the second half I was completely engrossed and had to keep reading to the end. I loved the parallel chapters featuring the ravens and the little comments about the different names for a group of them. And the clever little paragraph at the end where we discover what ravens call a group of ...more
Gerri Leen
I got 54% of the way through this before I said enough. I know this because this is the first book I've read on my new Kindle and the Kindle tells me how far I got. Being the inaugural Kindle book is the only memorable thing about this.

I loved The Thirteenth Tale so I really wanted to love this. And I should have loved a book this full of rooks (I'm a huge corvid fan). But I could not buy into the protagonist. He was, well, unbelievable in so many ways. Not solely because the way he is referred
...more
Tania
Beautifully written, but I struggled to connect with any of the characters. I could not feel happy or sad for them. I actually liked the first quarter of the book, but then the story just became flat. I felt no tension building towards the conclusion, and was left wondering, so what?

I am in no doubt that the author can write wonderful books, and I was captivated by her previous novel. Unfortunately this one missed the mark for me.

The story: As a boy, William Bellman commits one small cruel act t
...more
Helen
I thoroughly enjoyed the Thirteenth Tale for several reasons but what struck me most about it was, simply, its wonderful, old-fashioned story-telling. It seems a perversely difficult thing to find in a book! (Zafon, for example, has it in truck loads). It's that little something that makes you want to crawl into a hiding place and stay there, undisturbed, until the book is finished.

Bellman and Black has this quality too; even while I was enjoying the sights of Vienna, the book was calling me - c
...more
Bonnie
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

‘Without the past to cast its long shadow, might you see the future more clearly?’

Bellman & Black is the story of William Bellman who’s life was irrevocably altered after killing a crow with a slingshot when he was eleven years old. The brief yet ominous event foreshadows his life to come. William leads a prosperous life
...more
Nikki
I got Bellman & Black from Netgalley a while ago, without really knowing anything about it. It turned out to be a smooth, easy read, but it didn't really get any emotional hooks into me. The narration is very straightforward after the opening chapter, which seemed to promise more by way of emotion -- the main character's courtship of his wife takes barely a chapter, and a short chapter at that! So with all that it's very hard to get involved in the rest of the novel. Despite all the death an ...more
Mary
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 (
...more
Jane
I fell in love with Diane Setterfield’s first novel – ‘The Thirteenth Tale’ –and when a second novel with an intriguing title appeared after a long wait, my expectations soared. Maybe they went too high because, although I found some things to love, in the end I was disappointed.

A prologue set the story up beautifully. A group of boys, out playing in the countryside. One has a catapult, he sees a bird, he takes a shot, and the bird falls. Dead. He moved on, he quickly forgot, but at that moment
...more
Ana
DNF at 120 pages.

It's rare for me to give a book 1 star, and it's even rarer for me to not finish a book. I always try to give a book a chance, especially if it's one by an author that has impressed me in the past. I even surpassed my usual limit of 50 pages hoping that it would make some kind of impression on me. This time I just couldn't do it.

I was bored to tears. At 120 pages the plot should have already surfaced, and if it hasn't, then I don't have the patience to wait for it anymore. Nor
...more
Kimberly
Bellman & Black is a story dealing with a boy making the wrong choice at the wrong time and paying for it with a lifetime of punishment. It seems that the only 'macabre' aspect to this entire story is the business itself that the adult William Bellman goes into with Mr. Black. Although, this is tagged as a 'ghost story,' I didn't find it very haunting nor very telling, I'm sorry to say. You see, we meet little boy William Bellman immediately, his entire family, and most of 'Bellman & Bla ...more
M
A great read! A ghost story, but much more. After suffering great personal loss, William Bellman's "contract" with a mysterious stranger brings him retail riches and restores his daughter. But the cost of his success is revealed to him only at the end of his life. Rich in period detail, this novel is a joy to read. The last few pages are evocative, lyrical, uplifting.

Fans of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, The Cabinet of Curiosities, and of course, Diane Setterfield's first novel, The Thirteen
...more
Kaethe
As a novel about a Victorian man who makes his fortune by clever planning in business, I liked it okay. The book dealt kindly with aging and grief and the trauma of grief on a large scale. But I thought it was supposed to be a ghost story, so I kept waiting for that aspect, and kept being disappointed. Fundamentally, I suppose I just didn't get it. Wonderfully moody though.

Personal copy
Rebecca Foster
You’ll enjoy this novel best if you can read it of an evening in an English country graveyard, with dozens of rooks coming in to roost overhead. Without that suggestive setting to inspire you, you might not make it through this book at all.

Setterfield’s second novel is a peculiar beast, you see; it’s a bit like a classic suspense story (though not a ghost story, as the cover suggests), but also an English country fable like Jim Crace’s Harvest. Protagonist William Bellman is part Job and part Fa
...more
Steven
I don't even really know where to begin with this review. I have never once felt like I completely wasted my time with a book as I did with this one. I kept waiting for action, for the "ghost" to have some real impact on the story, for something to happen other than talking repeatedly over and over and over about Bellman's business acumen, investments, ideas for more profit, etc.

But it never happened. It just kept going on and on and on and on, and nothing happened, other than we watched a man g
...more
Anne
Diane Setterfield's first novel; The Thirteenth Tale is one of my all-time favourite novels. I read it in
hardback, when it was newly released in 2006, almost seven years ago and when I'm asked for book recommendations I always urge people to read it. It's a gothic tale, a book about books, a mystery, a ghost story - it's book-shaped perfection.

I went to hear Diane Setterfield talk about her writing, at Waterstone's in Lincoln, I think it was in the winter of 2007. I remember a very softly spoke
...more
Sharon Bolton
“(A rook) is not just black, he is blacker than that. His is a luxurious superabundance of blackness never seen in any other creature.”

As a child, William Bellman kills a rook in an act of thoughtless cruelty. Decades later, his life becomes haunted by a mysterious man in black and his fortunes take a turn for the worse. In the desperate hope of clinging onto one person he loves, William makes a strange bargain with the man in black.

A driven man, William turns into the creative force behind a
...more
Mikaela
Apr 27, 2013 Mikaela marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Definitely a must read! Her last novel was unbelievably amazing, and I can't wait for this one to come out.
Isa Lavinia


ARC provided by Atria/Emily Bestler Books through Netgalley

As a young boy, William Bellman kills a bird with a sling-shot. This small but cruel act defines his fate.
One by one, people begin to die around him - and at every funeral there is a mysterious man in black...

Bellman is a flat character. There is no other way to put it. In fact, every character in this book is uninteresting and undeveloped. I couldn't bring myself to feel much of anything about any of them.

There was very little in the
...more
Cher
It is difficult to provide a synopsis for Bellman and Black, but it is basically the story of how a seemingly small action that is done with little thought, can have consequences that follow you for the rest of your life. Now overlay that with a gothic tone and historical feel, and you have Bellman and Black.

I thoroughly enjoyed Diane Setterfield's previous novel, The Thirteenth Tale, but I feel this one is completely different in pacing and setup. The beginning did not draw me in instantaneousl
...more
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
Oh man. You know, I actually feel really bad for authors who hit it out of the park with their first book. I totally get why Harper Lee wrote a masterpiece and dropped the mic, man. There’s SO much pressure to come out with something that’s just as brilliant and/or as much of a bestseller. The Thirteenth Tale was wonderful; I adored every page on my first read through, and, though I loved it less the second time, it was still really good. Bellman & Black is not the follow up anyone will be e ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Bad book,no; Bad readers 21 90 Jan 22, 2015 06:13PM  
Ladies & Lite...: Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield (A Traveling Book) 103 145 Sep 05, 2014 11:27AM  
The ending??? 20 173 Feb 07, 2014 04:49PM  
What's The Name o...: (SOLVED) Boy kills bird and is then visited by mysterious man when he is grownup. [s] 8 73 Jan 25, 2014 03:08PM  
  • A Fatal Likeness
  • The Storycatcher
  • The Circle of Thirteen
  • This House is Haunted
  • Rogue (The Beloved, #2)
  • Eloise
  • Delia's Shadow (Delia Martin, #1)
  • The Revenant of Thraxton Hall: The Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Vanishing
  • The Wishing Thread
  • The Heavens Rise
  • The Anatomy of Ghosts
  • A Dangerous Fiction: A Mystery
  • The White Forest
  • Beneath the Shadows
  • Havisham
  • A White Room
  • A Study in Ashes (The Baskerville Affair, #3)
22665
“…a mistress of the craft of storytelling.”
The Guardian

Diane Setterfield is a British author. Her bestselling novel, The Thirteenth Tale (2006) was published in 38 countries worldwide and has sold more than three million copies. It was number one in the New York Times hardback fiction list for three weeks and is enjoyed as much for being ‘a love letter to reading’ as for its mystery and style. Her
...more
More about Diane Setterfield...
The Thirteenth Tale The Princess and the Pea: A Very Short Tale Vinterhjerter

Share This Book

“Without the past to cast its long shadow, might you see the future more clearly?” 12 likes
“People remembered. They wept and they grieved. In the spaces between, they were glad that the leeks were doing well this year, envied the bonnet of the neighbor's cousin, relished the fragrance of pork roasting in the kitchen on Sunday. There were those that registered the beauty of a pale moon suspended behind the branches of the elms on the ridge.” 6 likes
More quotes…