As a child, William Bellman nastily kills a bird with a slingshot but doesn't suffer the consequences until decades later... [when] a black-garbed stranger arrives, and William finds that he can save what little he has left if he agrees to enter into the spooky business concern that becomes Bellman & Black.
[P]poetic and mysterious.... William Bellman...as a boy....impresses his companions by killing a rook with his slingshot.... As the years fly by, William becomes a kind of Ebenezer Scrooge, obsessed with work and haunted by the appearance of crows, and Setterfield is our Dickensian conscience, reminding us of what coins can and cannot buy. —Lynn Weber
A boy hits the wrong bird with a slingshot, with lifelong consequences, in this second venture into gothic territory from Setterfield.... Although this novel succeeds in creating an atmosphere of creeping dread, the effect is attenuated by too much detail about the running of mills and department stores and also by a growing puzzlement over why an impulsive childhood transgression, never repeated, should exact such a terrible penalty. A gothic tale in which moments of tedium are relieved by morbidity.
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