His Bloody Project

His Bloody Project

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

Book - 2017
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A triple murder in a remote northwestern farming community in 1869 leads to the arrest of a young man by the name of Roderick Macrae. A fictional opinion of a medical doctor and psychologist is given on the questionable sanity of 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
Publisher: New York : Arcade Publishing, 2017
Copyright Date: ©2015
ISBN: 9781628728309
Characteristics: 250 pages ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

"So well written and presented, I was wondering if there had been a mistake that it was labeled Fiction. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. This historical thriller is very believable and describes the small 1800's Scottish community in wonderful detail". Gina, Technical Services

From the critics

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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."

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second novel is striking in two ways: it's set in rural 19th century Scotland and it's presented as a series of historical documents "discovered" by the author.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.

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.

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_MaiaS 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.

Nov 30, 2016

The best crime books and thrillers of 2016 The Guardian
"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.

Nov 18, 2016

This novel was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize in 2016 and, although it didn't win, there has been oodles of publicity and interest. It is difficult to categorize but I will agree with the author who said "it is a novel about a crime rather than a crime novel". The multiple perspective format allows the reader to consider the often contradictory evidence and almost play detective. Whodunnit is clear. Roddy MacCrae, a seventeen-year-old crofter's son, willingly admits to the murders of three people in his small village in Scotland in 1869. But Why? The largest portion of the novel is the account, given by Roddy, of his grim and meager existence leading up to the murders - and then the actual murders. If there had ever been any light in his life it had been thanks to his mother. But the mother died and the local constable begins harassing the family. Roddy successfully conveys a feeling of utter hopelessness made worse by the local church's stance on "Providence" -- it is all God's will. There are sections on the trial, newspaper coverage, character assessments, and medical reports (including coroners) . A report from an expert on criminal minds might be darkly funny if it weren't so accurate to the times.
A complicated but satisfying novel


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