Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Bellman & Black (review)

4/5 stars

Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story (Goodreads | Amazon) was not what I expected. As a boy, William Bellman kills a rook with a slingshot.  He's the type of jovial youth who's always up to something, but smart and hardworking, the type of person everyone wants to be around.  His life is nearly perfect, working at his Uncle's mill, marrying a beautiful girl, having children of his own until slowly one-by-one those around him start to die.  At every funeral he sees the same unknown man dressed in black smiling at him.

I expected this story to be scarier, a more clear-cut ghost story, but it leaves you guessing for most of the book.  Are William Bellman's friends and family dying because he killed the rook or are they just dying because eventually everyone does? Not even Bellman himself can be sure whether he's cursed or his luck as turned.
"I see misery and suffering and despair. I see the futility of everything I have ever done and everything I may ever do! I see every reason to do away with myself right here and now, and be finished with it! Forever!" 
For me, the book was more sad than creepier or scary.  We see Bellman build an enviable life for himself, then watch it fall apart as he loses everything he loves.  His desperation, his attempts to bargain with death, are very real and familiar emotions to anyone who has ever lost somebody they loved. And always in the background, always looming is the man in black and this sense of doom and paranoid that Bellman develops over time.

The writing is very atmospheric, setting the place and tone of the novel, and even though the story is slow-moving, it works for this particular novel.  This book is not a sprint, but a marathon, the haunting story of living, losing, paranoia and the potential price of a childhood mistake.

I received an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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