His Bloody Project

His Bloody Project

Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae: A Historical Thriller

Book - 2016
Average Rating:
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The year is 1869. After a brutal triple murder in a remote community in the Scottish Highlands, a young man by the name of Roderick Macrae is arrested for the crime. A memoir written by the accused makes it clear that he is guilty, but the police and the courts must decide what drove him to murder the local village constable. And why did he kill his other two victims? Was he insane? Or was this the act of a man in possession of his senses? Only the persuasive powers of his advocate stand between the killer and the gallows at Inverness. In this compelling and original novel, using the words of the accused, personal testimony, transcripts from the trial and newspaper reports, Graeme Macrae Burnet tells a moving story about the provisional nature of the truth, even when the facts are plain
Publisher: New York, NY : Skyhorse Publishing, 2016
Edition: First Skyhorse publishing edition
ISBN: 9781510719217
1510719210
Branch Call Number: FIC Burn
Characteristics: 290 pages : map ; 24 cm

Opinion

From Library Staff

The main character in this suspenseful murder mystery is also one of the narrators--and the main suspect. As we hear his story first-hand, and then the accounts of other witnesses, it raises questions about eyewitness reliability, the complexity of an insanity defense, and the nature of truth.

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Chapel_Hill_MaiaJ Jan 03, 2017

Although this isn't the type of book I'd normally pick up, I thought I'd give it a look because it was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize, and it didn't fail to impress. The author does such a good job getting into the different narrators' voices that I had to remind myself that it was actually ... Read More »


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e
empbee
Nov 30, 2017

Interesting and captivating description of rural life in the second half of 19th century Scotland. A good psychological and social thriller.

t
tjdickey
Nov 03, 2017

There is pointedly no omniscience in "His Bloody Project." The set of historical "documents" sets up a particularly obscure camera through which we can view the cottage life, the rude surroundings, the insolence of office, and the brutal mass killings that ensue in a tiny Scottish village. Burnet uses language in a conscious evocation of the roughness of his characters, and presents reality only in parallax view: it is something we must triangulate from the intensely biased accounts of a handful of all-too human actors and observers. Placing the omissions and contradictions of human perception at the heart of an unfathomable mystery and a courtroom trial, the novel evokes the reality-questioning of Kurosawa's "Rashomon."

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lukasevansherman
Jul 19, 2017

I'd called this a murder mystery, but you already know who committed the murder. Scottish author Graeme Macrae Burnet's second novel is striking in two ways: it's set in rural 19th century Scotland and it's presented as a series of historical documents "discovered" by the author. The longest section is the confession of the young murderer, a dirt poor crofter sick of the humiliations and abuses of those more powerful than he and his family. Then there are testimonies from neighbors, doctors, journalists, and a criminologist. The final section is the trial. Dark, compelling, and inventive, this is one of the best novels I've read this year. A finalist for the Booker prize in 2016.

Nicr May 08, 2017

Researching his family history, the narrator comes across a triple murder in 1869 by his relative, Roderick Macrae, then 17. After an initial setup for verisimilitude, what follows are brief accounts from various acquaintances (with various points of view as to the nature of the killer), a long account by the killer himself of his life leading up to and including the crime (written in prison at the behest of his attorney), medical examiner's reports, an account of the trial, etc. Of course, what immediately begins to stand out are the discrepancies. A clever and accomplished piece of fiction masquerading as history.

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lbeast
Feb 13, 2017

I highly recommend this book. I've gotten into reading lots of historical fiction mysteries from many eras of British history (Roman, Elizabethan, Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian) but this is a slightly different animal. Written as if it's a recounting of a crime in Scotland in the 1860s, complete with explanations, transcripts, various experts, you almost feel like it must have been an actual event. It isn't a thriller, it's a slow simmering work of intrigue and social commentary. For a while, I thought I was reading Peter May's Black House work because it's very similar. But this work is a reader's delight. I liked it.

u
uncommonreader
Feb 02, 2017

In this historical fiction novel masquerading as an account of the crime of a 17 year old boy in 1869 Scotland, the author provides an indictment of the exploitation of the crofting community by unscrupulous landlords. While it was interesting, it did not live up to the hype it generated.

JCLAmandaW Jan 20, 2017

The difference between the story told by a criminal and the story told by the evidence can be interesting. This book examines that in a way that causes you to remind yourself (at least in the first part) that this is, in fact, a fiction book. A good book for anyone who likes the feel of true crime in their historical fiction.

Chapel_Hill_MaiaJ Jan 03, 2017

Although this isn't the type of book I'd normally pick up, I thought I'd give it a look because it was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize, and it didn't fail to impress. The author does such a good job getting into the different narrators' voices that I had to remind myself that it was actually a work of fiction, and not a collection of real historical documents. This is not a book that ends with a neatly tied up bow. It is a book that makes you think--about the complexity of an insanity defense, about the nature of truth, about the reliability (or unreliability as the case may be) of eyewitness testimony, even from the killer himself, because there's no way to know what perceptions or beliefs may cloud their recollection, or if they might even be outright lying. If you enjoy thinking deeply about a character's motivations, then this is definitely the book for you.

l
labyrinthmr
Nov 30, 2016

The best crime books and thrillers of 2016 The Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/nov/30/the-best-crime-books-and-thrillers-of-2016?CMP=share_btn_tw
"The usually mystery-sniffy Man Booker prize shortlist found a place for Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project (Contraband), a smart amalgam of legal thriller and literary game that reads as if Umberto Eco has been resurrected in the 19th-century Scottish Highlands."

KateHillier Nov 23, 2016

I knew this was fiction going in but there were still points I had to remind myself of the fact. It reads very much like a true crime book, especially when we get to trial transcripts. The whole thing is very, very readable even as we move between Roddy's personal account, court documents, court transcripts and other various pieces of documentation.

Roddy Macrae is charged with three murders and for most of the book you are reading Roddy's account of his growing up in the village and the events of that day. He admits his guilt and simply explains things as he sees it. Of course, all that is challenged in various ways by the trial, a criminal expert, and the people who watched him grow up. It's really a quite fascinating book and quite a lot of packed into 280ish pages.

It's very readable, at points sympathetic and unsympathetic, and certainly gruesome. Extremely believable overall as well.

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