Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Many sophomore efforts don't do as well as the first book, but not here: Bellman and Black is a great follow-up to The Thirteenth Tale.
As with Robertson Davies' The Fifth Business the book opens with a rock being thrown. In this case, the rock leaves a slingshot, hits (and kills) a rook. The four boys involved, William, Charlie, Fred and Luke, initially plan a funeral but then forget about it... years later, William has taken over the family mill, much to his grandfather's dismay but the family's enrichment. Over the years, the others die, while William seems to go from success to success. At each of the funerals there's a dark, mysterious man and eventually he and William meet. The result of that meeting is Bellman & Black, a funeral emporium.
At times this reads like a much older novel, with detailed explanations of life at the mill and in the town. At others, the ghost part sneaks through as William feels somehow haunted but isn't sure hy what or who. Interspersed with the narrative is another, odder point-of-view, that of a rook, which only adds to the haunting nature.
I can't wait to see what happens in Setterfield's third book.
ARC provided by publisher.