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BELLMAN & BLACK, the long-awaited followup to Setterfield’s stellar debut, THE THIRTEENTH TALE (2006), is subtitled “A Ghost Story,” and it is. Not strictly in the traditional sense, but the story and its characters are haunted. As in THE THIRTEENTH TALE, Setterfield uses her gift for creating atmosphere to cast a gloomy sense of dread over even the happiest moments of Bellman’s life.

As a child, William Bellman kills a rook with his slingshot, a chance act that he quickly forgets–but that never forgets him. A mysterious man turns up at funerals, at first on the periphery, eventually introducing himself as Black and striking a strange bargain with Bellman. Bellman, afraid to ask the exact terms of the deal, proceeds blindly, changing the course of his life and making his fortune with it. But what is the deal? And when will Black collect?

In the midst of the rise and fall of Bellman’s fortunes (and the litany of tragedies that befall him) are interludes about the rook that are both informative and poetic. The lore and the nature of the rook infuse the narrative, the dark, inevitable presence haunting Bellman until the final reckoning. 

A gorgeous book.

Source disclosure: I received an advance copy of this title from the publisher.