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Bellman & Black

by Diane Setterfield

Books with reviews by our Reader Review Panel eBooks of the Month Historical Fiction Modern and Classic Literary Fiction Thriller and Suspense

LoveReading View on Bellman & Black

The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield’s debut, was one of the most exciting first novels since The Time Traveler’s Wife (and recently adapted for TV by the BBC). Bellman and Black is darkly, satisfyingly mysterious. Not quite as much a ghost story as the sub-title would imply it is still rich and gothic and very enjoyable.

Sarah Broadhurst

Bellman & Black Synopsis

As a boy, William Bellman commits one small cruel act that appears to have unforeseen and terrible consequences. The killing of a rook with his catapult is soon forgotten amidst the riot of boyhood games. And by the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his own, he seems indeed, to be a man blessed by fortune. Until tragedy strikes, and the stranger in black comes, and William Bellman starts to wonder if all his happiness is about to be eclipsed. Desperate to save the one precious thing he has left, he enters into a bargain. A rather strange bargain, with an even stranger partner, to found a decidedly macabre business. And Bellman & Black is born.

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Bellman & Black Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.


Gill Wilmott - 'A skilful quirky book, written by someone with a bright unusual imagination, that I really enjoyed reading.'  Click here to read the full review.

Angela Rhodes - 'If you want a creepy story, that will haunt you, one perfect, for a cold winters night, then let Dianne Setterfield's book, do it, Take a ride, on the back of a rook, into the world of Bellman & Black.' Click here to read the full review.


Berwyn Peet - 'A terrific read from a master story is one of the best-crafted and most captivating novels I have read this year.'  Click here to read the full review.

Kath Martin - 'Having thoroughly researched the workings of a mill, Diane has woven her threads into a superb finished article.  I just hope it's not too long before she writes another one.'  Click here to read the full review.

Sue Broom - 'There is much here to enjoy.  I loved reading everything she had to say about rooks and their behaviour, the folklore surrounding them and their persisting association with death.' Click here to read the full review.

Lynn Curtis - 'Jonathan Strange meets Mr Selfridge in this blacker than black morality/fairy story.'  Click here to read the full review.
Richard Hamlin - 'This is a beautifully written novel, full of vivid description and metaphor; in fact Bellman & Black is, in essence, one great metaphor.'  Click here to read the full review.

Lisa Redmond - 'This novel is a glorious return for a wonderful and talented writer.' Click here to read the full review.

Jane Carter - 'Lovely Victorian period details, a wonderful atmosphere, and a feeling of foreboding that never quite goes away.'  Click here to read the full review.
Lindsay Healy - 'The gradual unfolding of events, the shadowy, ghostlike figure of Black and the discovery of Bellman’s destiny all rendered this an intriguing, mysterious and compulsive read.'  Click here to read the full review.
Jill Peters - 'I learnt so much about the everyday trials of Victorian life facing William Bellman, striving to reach his vision and ambitions for his future success. But most of all, I learnt about the common and garden rook.  They are not what they seem to mere human beings. I will watch my back and treat them with the utmost respect in future.' Click here to read the full review.

Carolyn Huckfield - 'Bellman and Black is a funeral service like no other in Victorian England. What is the mystery that surrounds it? An amazing read with a Victorian backdrop.' Click here to read the full review.

Vanessa Wild - 'An unusual, atmospheric and disturbing story set in the Victorian era.  I will never look at a rook in the same way again!' Click here to see the full review.

Sarah Musk - 'A mysterious, dark book with a sense of unease pervading the whole story.  William Bellman commits one rash act as a young boy which has a terrible impact on his adult life.' Click here to resad the full review.

JB Johnston - 'A creepy and brooding type of story with an undercurrent of something lurking. Very well written.' Click here to read the full review.

Kathy Howell - 'This has enough mystery to keep the reader interested but is a very easy read. I enjoyed this book and will look for others by this author.' Click here to read the full review.

Josie Barton - 'Bellman and Black is a quietly reflective novel which explores the Victorian’s morbid fascination for death, and in doing so, uncovers an unusual story about the pain of bereavement.' Click here to read the full review.


Teresa Majury - 'it's well written, you'll learn something about rooks and it captures the Victorians' morbid fascination with death but it left me cold.'  Click here to read the full review.


Julie Bickerdyke - 'A dark, chilling tale that keeps you in suspense as you try to unravel why such a gentle sole as William Bellman has more than his fair share of misfortune.' Click here to read the full review.


The Good Book Guide Review

Playing in the Oxfordshire countryside, William Bellman raises his catapult and kills a rook in a far tree. Suddenly, rooks fly in from all directions and alight on the tree on which the bird sat; they make no sound but stare at William, who is deeply unnerved. The incident forgotten, William, a shrewd businessman, prospers and seems blessed personally and professionally. But then tragedy strikes, and a bargain made with a mysterious stranger sets William in a new direction. Seamless in its telling, this unusual story is utterly compelling.

Bellman & Black Press Reviews




'Having read and loved Diane Setterfield's first novel, THE THIRTEENTH TALE, I had high expectations for BELLMAN & BLACK- expectations that Diane Setterfield more than exceeded! BELLMAN & BLACK is the sort of story that you can't put down once you start and yet you don't want it to end either... BELLMAN & BLACK is nothing short of mesmerizing!.'



'This is a ghost story and while it is dark, atmospheric and full of death, what I loved was its life and colour. Setterfield is brilliant at character and setting and can make even a woollen mill fascinating and utterly riveting. A rags -to-riches tale with a spooky twist.'



'BELLMAN & BLACK: A Ghost Story is the second book by Diane Setterfield, and what a talented writer she is. This is an extraordinary book that defies genre. Part of the beauty of it derives from the fact you're unsure whether it is a ghost story or not... The research is meticulous and yet the many facts are blended so easily into the narrative that the reader hardly notices just how much authentic information Setterfield manages to impart, a talent she shares with Hilary Mantel.'



'A book that lingers after the last page is turned.'



'Deftly written with gorgeous language and phrasing, Diane Setterfield's newest novel, Bellman & Black, is sure to resonate with readers... Setterfield is a powerful storyteller who leads readers with a light hand to thoughts and feelings... Bellman & Black is not to be missed.'



'She's [Setterfield] come through with a corker, a second book arguably better than her first... If you loved her first book you should consider pre-ordering - or putting on hold at the library . Did this book take so long because she was going over it with a fine-toothed comb? Certainly seems like it. And it was worth the wait. You will love it. YOU WILL. Easily one of the best books I've read this year.'


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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781409128069
Publication date: 25/09/2014
Publisher: Orion (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd ) an imprint of Orion Publishing Co
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781409128014
Publication date: 10/10/2013
Publisher: Orion (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd ) an imprint of Orion Publishing Co
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781409128069
Publication date: 25th September 2014
Author: Diane Setterfield
Publisher: Orion (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd ) an imprint of Orion Publishing Co
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 416 pages
Genres: Reader Reviewed Books, eBook Favourites, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Thriller / Suspense,
Categories: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945),

About Diane Setterfield

Born in Berkshire, Diane Setterfield was educated at Theale Green Comprehensive School and Bristol University. Her degree in French literature led her to teach in universities in England and France, where she lived for several years. Diane's previous publications have been in the field of 19th and 20th century French literature, specialising in the writings of André Gide. After returning to the UK, Diane ran a business teaching French to those intending to live in France. She lives in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, with her husband.

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