Wednesday 5 July 2017

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

A Booker prize finalist in 2016. Adjust your expectations - down, down, 
down. Ok, now you may enjoy this.

Set in 1869, the author has chosen an interesting way to tell a story. It's a collection of papers starting with a written account, by the accused of what happened. This is commissioned by his defending legal representative - Mr Sinclair. Court papers - transcripts of the trial, medical reports, even newspaper cuttings and psychiatric evaluations all feature.

Reading the collection, one is plunged deep into the issues of a struggling family trying to make do. Roddy Macrae is the eldest son of a crofter. His sister, Jetta, is the maternal figure, since his mother died in childbirth, giving him two younger twin brothers. All goes (more) awry when Lachlan Broad becomes the almost-self-appointed "constable" of the village, throwing his weight around and generally exhibiting no small degree of unfairness and prejudice to the Macraes.

An observant reader of this review may notice a similarity in the author's name and that of his protagonist. The story goes that the author stumbled upon this story whilst researching his genealogy. However, this being published as a work of fiction was clever - the mystery around how true this all is helping drive curiosity, and book sales, presumably. Good for him.

Described as a story of a crime rather than a crime novel, this had a strong sense of place - set in Wester Ross. It felt authentic. The uncovering of the detail, constrained by the one by one opening of the reports and documents was cleverly done, maintaining my curiosity throughout.

It's more a whydunnit than a whodunnit and the pleasure is in drawing your own (completely directed by the author) conclusions, which is very entertaining.

A fascinating 4 stars

ISBN: 9781910192146

You may also enjoy Different Class by Joanne Harris or what about Dancing the Death Drill by Fred Khumalo?


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