Bellman and Black: A Ghost Story
When he is a boy, William Bellman somehow manages to kill a rook stone dead with a single catapult shot. His friends are impressed by his luck, but life goes on and he and they forget about it. But rooks do not forget. They are guided by two things only: Truth and Memory.
William finds work in a woollen mill owned and run by his estranged grandfather and uncle. Slowly but surely, profits rise and the mill expands and prospers. Eventually he owns it. Meanwhile he marries a woman he loves, and they have four children they both adore. Until tragedy strikes.
Soon, his thirteen-year old daughter, Dora, the only one left, is hanging onto life by the most slender of threads. He then has a strange conversation with the mysterious Mr Black, and a nebulous bargain is agreed. Meanwhile he leaves the mill in capable hands and begins a new business. We are now at the height of the Victorian obsession with death and all its trappings, and so he devises a huge shopping emporium for the bereaved. Bellman & Black sells everything from the large to the very small. People flock through it door. But William is troubled and profits start to fall inexorably. Is there something very important he’s forgotten? What on earth is it?
The Thirteenth Tale was a huge worldwide bestseller, and it has taken many years for a second novel from Diane Satterfield to be published. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely. Bellman & Black is a much finer novel: more mature, more accomplished, more wide ranging and multi-layered and much, much more than a simple ghost story. If there is any justice in the book world, it will achieve greater critical acclaim.