Will Bellman is growing up in Whittingford, England, when, on his tenth birthday, playing with his cousin Charles and two other local boys, he makes a really excellent catapult and, in a moment of bravado, says he's going to use it to hit a rook sitting on a tree branch a good distance away.
It's so improbable a feat that all the boys, including Will, are laughing at the idea--but the stone he launches does hit, and kill, the bird.
It's a small incident, surely of no lasting significance. Yet it will subtly haunt Will for the rest of his life.
We follow Will through the seemingly charmed first part of his life and career, an assistant to his uncle at Bellman's Mill, a happy marriage, the arrival of healthy, happy, much-loved children.
And then we are with him as things change.
This is a beautifully written story, with characterization of subtlety and depth, and marvelous evocation of mood. Will's success is not the operation of outside forces; he's smart, insightful, inventive, hard-working. He's impetuous at first, but learns from his mistakes, and has real consideration for others. No, his success is not unearned.
Yet there's an accidental act of cruelty back at the very beginning of it. The consequences will catch up with him--yet that, too, will be subtle, and thoughtful, and a surprise, not the payback the reader may expect until very near the end.
Bellman & Black is a really fine ghost story to read and savor as the darkening end of the year closes in on us.
I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.