Audiobook Review – Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story by Diane Setterfield

Posted January 11, 2014 by Bonnie in Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2013 / 8 Comments

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.

Audiobook Review – Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story by Diane SetterfieldBellman & Black: A Ghost Story by Diane Setterfield
Narrator: Jack Davenport
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on November 5th 2013
Genres: Gothic, Historical Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher



Caught up in a moment of boyhood competition, William Bellman recklessly aims his slingshot at a rook resting on a branch, killing the bird instantly. It is a small but cruel act, and is soon forgotten. By the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his own, William seems to have put the whole incident behind him. It was as if he never killed the thing at all. But rooks don’t forget . . .

Years later, when a stranger mysteriously enters William’s life, his fortunes begin to turn—and the terrible and unforeseen consequences of his past indiscretion take root. In a desperate bid to save the only precious thing he has left, he enters into a rather strange bargain, with an even stranger partner. Together, they found a decidedly macabre business.

And Bellman & Black is born.

‘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 for many years having a large family and doing wells in business until it slowly begins to decay. A sickness spreads through his family and one by one they die yet at each of their funerals William Bellman is stricken to realize there is a smiling man dressed all in black, watching him. When William finds him one day in the graveyard, waiting with a suspicious proposition.

I think the fact that I actually have not yet read the much touted ‘The Thirteenth Tale’ was a benefit as I didn’t have the lofty expectations that others seemed to have going into this story. Alas, despite my lack of expectation this was still a dreadfully dull and disappointing tale. It had a very ‘Dickens’ writing style to it yet was less adroit. William Bellman even took on a similar feel to Ebenezer Scrooge who was obsessed with his business and making money (except William Bellman had a family to come home to). The attempted moral of this story is one choice can change everything, which is a powerful message, yet the deaths surrounding William Bellman didn’t even seem to be written as a result of him killing the crow but rather it was just an implied assumption. That powerful message was definitely diminished.

The beginning part of the story dawdles along telling the story of an unexceptional man and detailing his factory and the business he conducted. While it was evident that the author conducted the research necessary to make her detailing convincing, it didn’t generate an ounce of interest in me. It was historically interesting but not appealing in the least as it overwhelmed the story completely. I found myself halfway through and realized that I had no interest in any of the characters, there wasn’t a single ghost to be found in this ‘ghost story’ and any sort of plot was completely nonexistent. I was confused and incredibly bored. The second half didn’t get any better and the plot (and purpose of the story) remained absent. The one saving grace of this was my decision to opt for the audio route. Jack Davenport was a fantastic narrator and managed to make this a tolerable tale.

Suffice it to say, this is an apt description of my reaction when it was all said and done:



8 responses to “Audiobook Review – Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story by Diane Setterfield

  1. Oh no, I’m so disappointed to hear this! Ghost stories without ghosts are pretty objectionable, though, and it sucks when you don’t care about any of the characters.

    I really do think you’d enjoy THE THIRTEENTH TALE, though. Still one of my favorite books, and so perfect for bibliophiles.
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  2. Ina M.

    Haha. I was just as underwhelmed by B&B. Haven’t read The Thirteenth Tale, and to be fair am not in the least interested to, after trudging through Bellman & Black for what felt like forever. Somehow I managed to make it to the end, though (and that wasn’t even the audio version), so I guess it could have been worse 😉

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