Let me start by saying that when an author has only two books to her credit, and has been compared to writers like Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, I may be prone to read her work for that reason alone. I had never heard of neither the author, nor her first book, but when I was offered the opportunity to review Bellman & Black I jumped at the chance. The book description was interesting, and I decided to give it a try. In most ways, I was not disappointed.
The book opens with a ten-year-old William Bellman betting his three friends that he can shoot a rook with his slingshot. The act leaves him and his friends unsettled, but it is quickly forgotten. This one moment follows William for the rest of his life, and seems to affect him in ways he doesn't even understand.
The book is broken into three parts. Part One follows William Bellman through his teenage and young adult years. Part Two covers his middle age and older years. Part Three is very short and covers the time after his death. This story was captivating and interesting and I was on the edge of my seat to the very end...unfortunately I stayed there, even after the book ended. When Part Two ended, I thought that I would turn to Part Three and the plot of the story would make some sense to me, but it didn't. I turned back and re-read other parts, hoping to find something that I missed, but I couldn't. I enjoy a book that keeps me guessing and wondering and trying to figure out answers to some hidden mystery. This book had all of these things, except that I was never able to figure out the answer to the mystery.
Despite this, I found myself really liking this book. I did feel that the story could have been developed better, and the ending could have drawn a better conclusion to the story. Neither of these are reasons that I would not recommend this book. As a matter of fact, I may go back someday and read Ms. Setterfield's first book, The Thirteenth Tale. While I do believe she is a talented author, I don't think her work measures up to that of the Bronte sisters.
Give Bellman & Black a try and let me know what you thought.