His Bloody Project (Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae) by Graeme Macrae Burnet
Published by Skyhorse Publishing
Expected publication 18 October 2016 (originally published 5 November 2015)
I was given a copy of this book by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
NB: I’ve decided to read all of the books long-listed for the Man Booker this year. Other book blogs do this so it seems like a good idea.
At the moment, this the book I hope wins. This may change as I read the remaining books in the longlist.
WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT
A triple murder in a remote north-western farming community in 1869 leads to the arrest of a young man by the name of Roderick Macrae. There’s no question that Macrae is guilty, but the police and courts must uncover what drove him to murder the local village constable and his two children. The book starts with the account of the accused killer who gives us the events leading up to the murders from his jail cell. The book then offers the fictional opinion of a medical doctor and psychologist on the questionable sanity of Roderick Macrae. The last third of the book is a courtroom transcript that reveals the full truth of the events that left three dead. Burnet has created a fascinating unreliable narrator in this historical revenge tragedy and courtroom drama.
I am writing this at the behest of my advocate, Mr Andrew Sinclair, who since my incarceration here in Inverness has treated me with a degree of civility I in no way deserve.
WHAT I THOUGHT
I thought His Bloody Project was bloody brilliant. The book is quite dark at times and unsettling but one of those rare books you can’t put aside once you start reading it. I loved the way the novel is structured with Robert Macrae’s own account of the crime he’s being accused of following by the court transcripts of the trial. What struck me about Macrae’s account is how straight-forward and without colour it is. He recounts the actions he took and the consequences without emotion or spin to try and paint him in a more sympathetic light. This was my favourite section of His Bloody Project even though it made shivers crawl down my spine. I also loved the court transcripts highlighting how Macrae’s actions affect the whole community. Two opinions of Macrae are put forth – he’s a lunatic, prone to muttering and mumbling to himself, a crazed maniac capable of murder out of a misguided idea of revenge or he’s a victim of circumstances, caught killing the woman who rejected his love in a fit of passionate rage and forced to act. Who is the real Robert Macrae? I loved the historical setting of His Bloody Project. I’m not a historian so cannot say whether the setting was realistic or not but it comes across as very authentic. His Bloody Project is highly recommended and gets my vote.