Thursday, March 23, 2017

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Author: Graeme Macrae Burnet
Publisher: HMH
Publication Year: 2017
Genre: Literary Fiction
My Rating:5/5

Amazing book + Coffee = Happy Day


 A brutal triple murder in a remote Scottish farming community in 1869 leads to the arrest of seventeen-year-old Roderick Macrae. There is no question that Macrae committed this terrible act. What would lead such a shy and intelligent boy down this bloody path? Will he hang for his crime?

Presented as a collection of documents discovered by the author, His Bloody Project opens with a series of police statements taken from the villagers of Culdie, Ross-shire. They offer conflicting impressions of the accused; one interviewee recalls Macrae as a gentle and quiet child, while another details him as evil and wicked. Chief among the papers is Roderick Macrae’s own memoirs, where he outlines the series of events leading up to the murder in eloquent and affectless prose. There follow medical reports, psychological evaluations, a courtroom transcript from the trial, and other documents that throw both Macrae’s motive and his sanity into question. Graeme Macrae Burnet’s multilayered narrative will keep the reader guessing to the very end


This is the third book in Janel's Criminally Good Book Club and this one is my favorite by far! I was absolutely enthralled with the story and was super excited to hear that it is being developed into a series! 

His Bloody Project is presented as a historical thriller, however it evades straightforward classification. It is historical in that it is presented as a series of documents found by the author while researching his ancestors in Scotland, but it is not quite a mystery or thriller in the traditional sense that you are trying to follow clues to find out whodunnit. I believe it is closer to a courtroom drama where the tension unfolds through various narrative told from multiple points of view.  

The plot centers around a triple murder in the highlands of Scotland and both the lead up to and the aftermath as perceived by the accused, his lawyer and the community. The narrative engages the reader and questions our moral and legal assumptions about guilt, responsibility, punishment and society as it leads the reader through the mind of Roderick as he recounts his childhood and his interactions with his victims leading up to their deaths, his decision to commit his crime and his reasoning to not hide it. Through this story we also get a glimpse at other thoughts and motivations that are not explicitly addressed and a recreation of the19th century Scottish justice system which is fascinating. 

Roderick's personal narrative  and his fellow villagers' impressions of him make up roughly half of the book. The later half recounts Roderick's imprisonment and trial. Both of these sides of the story are completely believable and immersive and speak to the author's research of the time period and setting. The attention to detail  I absolutely loved this book! It's been a while since I've read a book that's left me thinking after I finished and in awe of the quality of the writing. 

I don't want to give too much away since I believe this is one of those books that is best experienced by simply plunging into the book and letting yourself be swept away by the story without too much build up. I will say if you are looking for a conventional fast-paced thriller with a crazy twist, this is not it. If you are looking for a beautifully written book whose premise, execution, and ending will stay with you long after you turn the last page, do yourself a favor and pick this one up. 

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