Diane Setterfield wrote a novel called The Thirteenth Tale some years ago. My mother and I both read it, interested in the poetic prose and the mysterious story. We have long awaited another novel from this one hit wonder and were thrilled when something finally arrived. Now, I pride myself on being able to separate stories that authors have written. Meaning I do not assume that, because Setterfield wrote a beautiful story years ago, that she would again. Nor did I assume the story would be a mystery. I expected a beautifully written book about a man’s downward spiral and something that would drive the reader onward.
I was disappointed. I applaud the well-written prose but the story itself was lacking. I enjoyed greatly the first half (which did not include Bellman and Black at all but was necessary to show how Bellman and Black came into existence). However, from that point forward, it was simply business talk mixed with the confused musings of a lost man. There was no forward motion. All of a sudden, a decade has gone by and all that has happened is the growing of a business. There is no character development for Bellman, only the confused loneliness that he chooses not to acknowledge until the elusive Black simply tells him to remember. He then remembers his life and summarizes the first half of the book for us and then it is the end. There was no mystery to solve, no wrong to set right, and no readerly conclusion.
This being said, I would not not recommend the book. It was well-written and was interesting enough in the beginning. I couldn’t help but think of A Christmas Carol the whole time.
A disappointment, but not a tragic one. I can only hope her next book offers more of a forward-moving story.