Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

By Diane Setterfield

Bellman & Black is a heart-thumpingly excellent ghost tale, fantastically and irresistibly written, its ratcheting stress exquisitely calibrated line by way of line. Its hero is William Bellman, who, as a boy of eleven, killed a sparkly black rook with a catapult, and who grew as much as be anyone, his neighbours imagine, who "could visit the great or the bad." And certainly, even though William Bellman's lifestyles at the beginning turns out blessed--he has a contented marriage to a stunning girl, turns into father to a brood of shiny, powerful youngsters, and prospers in business--one by means of one, humans round him die. And at each one funeral, he's startled to work out an odd guy in black, smiling at him. in the beginning, the lifeless are far-off kin, yet finally his personal kids die, after which his spouse, forsaking just one baby, his favorite, Dora. Unhinged via grief, William will get inebriated and stumbles to his wife's clean grave--and who might be there ready, however the smiling stranger in black. The stranger has a proposition for William--a mysterious enterprise known as "Bellman & Black" . . .

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Ja, no doubt you did,” he replied; then, becoming less irritable as he cooled off, “if you promise not to run away this afternoon, perhaps I will sneak you into the Hall this evening. ” he ended sharply. I think I had taken the Doctor's measure by now; I thought him something of a child, so answered calmly that I supposed he would take care to avoid any unpleasant consequences to himself, and as for myself I was prepared to take the risk. On that understanding we carried on along our road. He began to talk again after a while, in his usual airy, conceited vein, but now I could not resist the temptation to deflate him by remarking that for all his superior contempt for mere sportsmen and hunt servants he must allow that they must have some skill—not to mention nerve—that he lacked if they handled dogs like the boar-hounds we had seen a while ago.

Two of them used to bring in the dishes from the kitchen to the Doctor's dining-room and then stand by the sideboard while two maids took over and served us at table. They were always naked to the waist, so that I could observe their well-fed, sleek bodies; the livery trousers they wore of green or brown stuff were so tight as to mould their haunches and legs; they all looked as if they were running to fat, and were only kept in condition by a lot of hard work, though none of them seemed above twenty-two or so.

It seemed likely enough that wild-cats might be fairly common vermin in a great forest like Hackelnberg. One other thing I noticed: The fair-haired youth had been standing at a long broad table in the middle of the room, doing something with some gear among the litter of the things that strewed it. He laid down the object he had been working on as he moved a little aside to talk to the Doctor; it was some small piece of metal apparatus and he had been working on it with a file. Edging a little closer, I saw that it was a queer-looking arrangement of steel hooks, arranged like fingers of a hand, and just about the size of my hand, or a bit less.

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