Seven years after her mesmerizing first novel, The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield returns with Bellman & Black, a ghost story that’s both terrifyingly familiar and unlike any such tale you’ve ever read. As in her previous novel, Setterfield once again transports us into a world of irresistible Gothic suspense, this time weaving in unsettling ruminations on mortality, nature and how far a man will go to save what he loves.

As a young boy, William Bellman kills a rook with his catapult. It’s an act of boyhood curiosity and playfulness, but it will alter his entire life. As a young man, William is promising, bright and handsome. As he grows into adulthood, he builds a successful business and has a lovely wife and children he adores—but then it all begins to crumble, and a mysterious man in black appears. Desperate to save what little of his former life remains, William makes a deal with the oddly familiar stranger, and a grim new business venture is born that will consume him.

Despite the story’s macabre premise, Setterfield never gives in to the temptations of garish sensationalism. This is a slow-burning, creepily realistic tale, woven together with practical but often magically transformative prose that moves the reader from the comforts of an idyllic domestic life to the depths of despairing determination. Even with all its strangeness, Bellman & Black never loses sight of its emotional core, and that makes it a deeply affecting journey. Quite simply, Setterfield has done it again.

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our Meet the Author interview with Diane Setterfield for Bellman & Black.

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