His Bloody Project


His-Bloody-ProjectSet circa 1869 in a rural Scottish village, “His Bloody Project” imagines the homicides committed by a 17-year-old crofter, Roderick Macrae. The author, Graeme Macrae Burnet deftly structures his novel with testimonials of Roddy’s character; eyewitness accounts; his own memoir; medical and forensic psychologist reports and the trial.

Roddy freely admits that he’s killed Lachlan Mackenzie. In fact, in his memoir, he plainly declares the world should be rid of the man. Elected constable of the village, Lachlan appears to prey on Roddy’s family, manipulating laws and regulations for them. Does Lachlan push him too far or is Roddy “wrong in the head” as some of his neighbors attest? Was Roddy insane to kill the man? Or have unceasing poverty and his father’s declining health caused Roddy to snap?

Burnet’s interweaving of Roddy’s story with the crofting, the landscape, the religion, the laird and more, feels effortless. He gives a full sense of the times and hardships, while his writing can also be darkly comic. “His Bloody Project” was the surprise small-imprint book nominated for the 2016 Man Booker Prize. I’m glad it received greater exposure and readership. It’s a page-turner, but, as the title suggests, maybe not for the faint-of-heart.

Julia Benedict


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