His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Another 1st person historical fiction – this time taking place in rural Scotland circa 1869 and involving crime.

Young Roderick Macrae is in jail for murder.  The book opens with some statements and then gets to his own statement for about 2/3rds of the book.   Then there are documents and  statements from other sources.  A narrator occasionally interjects some detail but it never feels like an intrusion and it’s always very brief.


His Bloody Project 
by Graeme Macrae Burnet 
2016/ 300 pages
read by Antony Ferguson 10h 22m
rating –  8.5/B     /literary historical fiction (legal crime)

In Roderick’s pages we find out how he,  a generally nice guy with a few troubles,  came to be  in jail for murder.  According to him there was a new local constable,  Lachlan McKenzie,  who misused his powers to seriously threaten ruination of Roderick’s hard and stubborn father. In the first pages Roderick admits  that he did indeed kill him.  (And I won’t go further due to spoilers).  His mother is deceased.

Andrew Sinclaire is the attorney who represents and befriends Roderick – a very interesting character.

Again,  this is really good historical fiction which includes language matching  the era and the nice details about the plot and setting.  The source notes are a very interesting addition. I’m so curious as to how much is taken from some actual cases.

Literarily,  I suppose the language and structure of the book are different enough to acknowledge the novel as being literary.   Few genre mystery fans would be happy with it.  But the literary features never overweigh the tension and plot development – a difficult feat.

Furthermore,  the few references to other literature is slender,  but that’s appropriate because  these are not learned characters and most of them tell their own tales.  Not sure if there’s a theme or not – perhaps the language, structure and history are so well done that it has a literary feel.


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4 Responses to His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

  1. I’d love to read this one.


  2. Helen says:

    I’ve just read this too and loved it. I assumed that the sources were fictional, but it was hard to tell.


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