His Bloody Project – Graeme Macrae Burnet



I loved this book.

When I first learned of its publication, I thought that it was a non-fiction account of a murder trial in Scotland in the 1860s. His Bloody Project is actually a novel, written as though it’s non-fiction, which makes the story all that more believable and engrossing. It was short-listed for the Man Booker prize in 2016.

I’m not normally drawn to thriller/mysteries, as that’s what this book is categorized as, but in my opinion it should not be categorized as either of those. This is a novel of psychology, of endurance, of the questions of what is moral and what is immoral. This is not a whodunit, but a whydunit.

The book is broken up into parts, the first part being a memoir of events written by the accused, Roddy Macrae, while he’s in prison awaiting trial for murder. The subsequent sections are medical reports, psychological assessments, and accounts of the trial. Roddy’s first-account narrative lends sympathy for his circumstances. The reader follows Roddy’s thoughts and emotional turmoil, forming a bond with the murderer; but later, others’ interpretations of the events, during the lawyers’ investigations and at the trial, cause the seeds of doubt to be sown, and nothing is certain.

This is an expert writing full of nuances and subtleties. I’m going to be thinking about this book for a long time. His Bloody Project will definitely make you ponder; it would be great for book clubs. I’m planning on stopping at Applecross while visiting Scotland this summer, just to walk around the same village as Roddy Macrae. I have to keep reminding myself that this book is fictional.

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