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His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to…
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His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae

by Graeme Macrae Burnet

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9566213,847 (3.89)187
  1. 30
    Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (cbl_tn)
    cbl_tn: Both are Booker shortlisted novels that tell the story of a 19th century crime. Atwood's is based on a real crime.
  2. 10
    Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (Becchanalia)
  3. 00
    The Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers (wandering_star)
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» See also 187 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
One of my favourites so far this year, and a great book to discuss at book group. The basic facts of the murder are established very early on, but take the rest of the book to gradually unravel, becoming if anything less clear the more different accounts we hear. It is bleak, with grinding poverty and the crofters sometimes seen as barely human by others. But it's also funny, with a dark sense of humour and some properly hilarious moments especially at the trial. ( )
  AlisonSakai | Jul 30, 2019 |
A sad story of a young farmer who commits murder. Told in sections through his own words, through the psychologist’s report and through the trial transcript. This is historical fiction but reads like fact. These poor people and the miserable lives they lead. I was rooting for Roderick even though I knew he was quilty. ( )
  readingover50 | Jun 11, 2019 |
From the opening pages the reader knows that Roderick Macrae has been arrested for the murder of three of his neighbors in the tiny village of Culdie, in Scotland in 1869. Macrae admits his guilt and the witness statements are unequivocal. So while what follows may be considered a crime novel, it isn't a whodunnit, so much as a whydunnit. Why did Roddy Macrae do it? Was he driven to it or was he evil? Was he unusually intelligent or barely sentient? As the often conflicting testimonies and evidence is presented to the reader, we are left to come to our own conclusions.

In the small farming village of Culdie, where each family supports themselves off the small allotment of land attached to their crofts and where the landowner controls their entire lives, Lachlan Mackenzie becomes the village constable, upsetting the lives of the Macrae family with his invented transgressions, each which puts Roderick's father ever deeper into debt. But whether Roddy murdered MacKenzie and two of his children for that reason or some other reason is left for the reader to decipher. His Bloody Project is composed of witness statements, examinations of various professionals and Roddy's own accounting, written at the request of his lawyer. It's a fascinating look at life in rural Scotland in 1869, and of how difficult it is to determine motivation across the distance of time, even with ample historical record. ( )
2 vote RidgewayGirl | May 15, 2019 |
Very well written, well researched, and about the bleakest book I have ever read. Despite my interest in the subject (not murder, but life in the Highlands and particularly among the poor crofters), and despite my respect for the writer's work, I will not be reading another of his books. It starts off grim and slides inexorably into complete and irredeemable misery. Maybe worthwhile, but for me, unbearable. ( )
  thesmellofbooks | Apr 15, 2019 |
His Bloody Project: Documents relating to the case of Roderick Macrae by Graeme Macrae Burnet tells the fictional story of a 17 year old boy name Roddy Macrae who murders three members of a neighbouring family in a small, remote Scottish village in the mid 1800s. There is no question that he committed these crimes but as various documents and legal papers are brought forward, a story does emerge but many questions are left unanswered as well. These documents are witness statements, medical reports, psychological evaluations, Roddy’s own written account of the incident and finally the courtroom transcript. All accounts are in conflict, all bring into question both Macrae’s sanity and motive.

The dour and brooding atmosphere, the unreliable narration, the dark nature of the crime all combine into a spellbinding piece of historical fiction. The author has cleverly contrived to present this fictional story as a well researched actual case study and he is to be praised for his ability to make this story feel so real. I found myself totally absorbed in Roddy’s case to the point that each psychological detail and every small discrepancy was weighed and measured, and I found that for all the information that was included, what was left unsaid gave yet another meaning to the story.

His Bloody Project is an intricate story that encourages the reader to think. It is imaginative, engrossing and a very good read. ( )
5 vote DeltaQueen50 | Apr 6, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
Een jaar voor de dramatische gebeurtenissen verliest Roderick Macrea zijn moeder. Omdat iedereen haar persoonlijkheid vergeleek met ‘het zonlicht dat de gewassen koesterde’ was het hele dorp in diepe rouw gedompeld. Zijn vader leek er niet veel last van te hebben, hij was altijd in mineurstemming. Dorpsgenoten leggen de situatie allemaal anders uit. Maar er komt wel degelijk een beeld uit naar voren dat Roderick Macrae en zijn vader telkens weer vernederd werd door dorpsgenoot Lachlan Mackenzie...lees verder >
 
Graeme Macrae Burnet’s “His Bloody Project” was shortlisted for The Man Booker Prize 2016, and it is easy to see why. It is consummately conceived and competently written. Its most interesting aspect is the clever blending of reality and fiction. For example, woven into the story are some figures – notably prison doctor and psychology specialist J. Bruce Thomson and journalist John Murdoch who actually existed at the time. Their roles, their thoughts, as portrayed in the novel are those that they held at the historical time of the events of the story unfolds. There are other “real” elements that have been blended in as well.
 
Burnet has been quick to point out that it's not a typical crime novel ("I prefer to call it 'a novel about a crime'"), and though this is indisputable, it is also true that it's just not a typical novel. The book is presented as a true-crime dossier per its subtitle, "Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae" — a group of found documents excavated by a fictional version of Burnet in the course of researching his grandfather (Donald "Tramp" Macrae), coupled with Burnet's reconstruction of his ancestor's trial. There are witness statements and medical reports, but the centerpiece of these documents is the fictional memoir of 17-year-old Roderick Macrae, written in prison after his arrest for a gory triple murder in his home village of Culduie in 1869.
 
The facts, based on a real incident in 19th-century Scotland, almost become irrelevant, so good is the telling in prose of unusual clarity. Graeme Macrae Burnet’s Man Booker-shortlisted second novel has all the advantages: brilliant characterisation, conflicting viewpoints, sharp dialogue, the natural eloquence of Robert Louis Stevenson and, above all, assured pacing, supported by a masterful feel for ambivalence.

True to the best of crime writing, the genius lies in the story and the way in which the characters react. It may not be a conventional thriller, but it is no less thrilling for that. The Scottish author’s gleeful wit frequently surfaces in exchanges between characters that live off the page in a work which conveys not only a sense of period but also of place (a remote village). To say it is an obvious screenplay does not diminish the sheer literary ease which underpins the narrative.
 
His Bloody Project appears to channel a bookish version of the currently fashionable “found footage” film genre, in which verisimilitude is suggested by randomly cobbled-together documentary material forming a fragmentary narrative. In this case, Burnet includes witness statements, postmortem documents on murder victims, a documentary account of a trial — and a lengthy memoir by the man accused of triple murder. The subtitle of the book reads: “Documents relating to the case of Roderick Macrae”, and these ersatz papers build a picture of an insular Highland crofting community in the 19th century while also presenting a fascinating picture of attitudes to the criminology of the era.
 
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The quern performs best when the grindstone has been pitted.
Highland proverb
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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.
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A brutal triple murder. Dark and deadly deeds in a remote northwestern crofting community in 1869 lead to the arrest of a young man by the name of Roderick Macrae. There's no question that Macrae landed the savage blows, but it falls to the country's finest legal and psychiatric minds to uncover what drove him to commit such merciless acts of violence. Was he insane? Only the persuasive powers of his advocate stand between Macrae and the inevitability of the gallows at Inverness.Will he swing for his wicked acts?
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Dark and deadly deeds in a remote northwestern crofting community in 1869 lead to the arrest of a young man by the name of Roderick Macrae. Only the persuasive powers of his advocate stand between Macrae and the inevitablility of the gallows at Inverness. Will he swing for his wicked acts?

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