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William Bellman is just ten years old when he commits an act that will haunt him the rest of his life-the killing of an innocent rook. In adulthood, William is building the perfect life for himself with a gorgeous wife and a brood of children, as he works his way up at his family's mill. But he and his family are stalked by creepy black birds. Tragedies slowly begin piling up-first friends and distant relatives, then his wife and children. At each funeral, he spies a man wearing all black. While waiting for his final child to die, William visits the grave of his wife and runs into the mysterious Mr. Black. William enters into a Faustian bargain with Mr. Black, saving his daughter and resulting in the development of Bellman & Black, a funeral emporium. VERDICT While billed as a ghost story, Setterfield's (The -Thirteenth Tale) sophomore effort seems more a gothic psychological study with the dark vibe of an Edgar Allan Poe tale. Lovers of true ghost stories may be disappointed, but fans of Setterfield's best-selling debut will snatch this one up. [See Prepub Alert, 5/13/13.]-Chelsie Harris, San Diego Cty. Lib. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
This poetic and mysterious novel by the author of The Thirteenth Tale (2006) tells of William Bellman, who we first meet as a boy out with his friends in the English countryside. William impresses his companions by killing a rook with his slingshot, and as the years go by, he continues to impress. A winning young man with a knack for business, he rises to the top of a local mill, marries and has four bright children, and expects all of his days to be equally blessed. Then disease comes to his town. It takes his wife and three of his children, and, in desperation, William makes a deal with a black-coated stranger. His eldest daughter is spared, but William is unable to face reminders of his happy past. He pours himself into industry, moving to London and opening Bellman & Black. As the years fly by, William becomes a kind of Ebenezer Scrooge, obsessed with work and haunted by the appearance of crows, and Setterfield is our Dickensian conscience, reminding us of what coins can and cannot buy.--Weber, Lynn Copyright 2010 Booklist