Review: His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Categories: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery

First Publication Date: November 5th 2015


Synopsis: The year is 1869. A brutal triple murder in a remote community in the Scottish Highlands leads to the arrest of a young man by the name of Roderick Macrae.

A memoir written by the accused makes it clear that he is guilty, 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 mad? Only the persuasive powers of his advocate stand between Macrae and the gallows.

Graeme Macrae Burnet tells an irresistible and original story about the provisional nature of truth, even when the facts seem clear. His Bloody Project is a mesmerising literary thriller set in an unforgiving landscape where the exercise of power is arbitrary.


I picked up His Bloody Project because I was in the mood for a thriller and thought this historical novel compiling documents of the (fictional) case of Roderick Macrae sounded like a very fun read, in the spirit of Night Film by Marissa Pessl with all the documents, investigation and the “true crime” feel of it. While this is classified as a literary thriller, I would argue that it’s rather a literary historical mystery – there are some plot twists along the way but mostly the story shines on how atmospheric it is, how interesting the trial part is and how the reader starts noticing some inconsistencies here and there and come to their own conclusions on what really happened. I did enjoy the first 30-40% of the book, which is Roderick’s own account of what happened (or maybe it’s a fake letter his lawyer wrote to put Roderick in a good light? Could be!), but the story gets a lot better after that, once the sad tale of Roderick is over and you start getting the witnesses, autopsies, the trial and so on.

If you are a fan of true crime, of documentaries and such, you will really like this. It absolutely reads like a true story. This was nominated for the Booker Prize in 2015 and with good reason – His Bloody Project is quite a page-turner and I had a great time reading it!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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