A brutal triple murder in a remote Scottish farming community in 1869 leads to the arrest of 17-year-old Roderick Macrae. There is no question that Macrae committed this terrible act. What would lead such a shy and intelligent boy down this bloody path?
Presented as a collection of documents, His Bloody Project opens with a series of police statements taken from the villagers, which offer conflicting impressions, throwing Macrae’s motive and his sanity into question.
Author: Graeme Macrae Burnet
Narrators: Cameron Mowat & Crawford Logan
Publisher: W. F. Howes
Genre: Historical Fiction/Thriller
Running Time: 10hrs 0mins
Audio Release Date: 06/10/2016
My Rating of ‘His Bloody Project: 3 out of 5
His Bloody Project is one of those books that does what it sets out to do well enough to make the reader/listener forget they are going through a piece of fiction rather than a factual re-telling of an actual crime. It does this by being a tale of two distinctly different halves. The first being Roderick Macrae’s re-telling of the crime as he experienced/remembered it and the second being the aftermath (Roddy’s time in court and everything that follows after).
I really enjoyed the way this was set out and would certainly be keen on trying more things set out in this way. My main gripe with His Bloody Project is that is seemed so very slow for the first half. Roddy literally goes through the minutiae of his daily life as a crofter’s son in painfully exacting detail and, were I reading rather than listening, I would have felt his part somewhat of a chore to get through.
I know that, being in jail awaiting the very probable verdict of ‘guilty of murder’ followed by a date with the hangman means that Roddy has very little other to occupy his prison stay other than these memoirs. So with boredom as a factor I can understand the extra effort. He did say, however, how he wasn’t fussed about writing them, but did so only to appease his advocate. So, if a man has little interest in writing down his own tale, why does he proceed to do so in such painstaking detail?
One aspect of His Bloody Project I really enjoyed was the fact that Roddy freely admitted his guilt in the murders. So you go into this fully aware that his words aren’t in any way an attempt at gaining his freedom. He simply wants what happened, and the reasons for it, to be known. This dynamic gives the reader that odd feeling of pulling for Roddy and only wanting the best for him given the events surrounding his crime, only to remember that he’s a murderer. Bit of a catch-22 for the old conscience.
I greatly preferred the second half (the court proceedings and fanfare surrounding the whole ordeal) than I did Roddy’s re-telling. I am a tad biased in that I enjoy perusing old crimes on the Old Bailey website, so just getting to the raw data of it interests me more that what came before.
The author does an excellent job of capturing the spirit of the time from everything to how the law operates, to day to day life and the overall competence towards mental health in such cases as Roddy’s. Had Roddy’s crime occurred today he would have had much different treatment than he had between the pages of His Bloody Project and its interesting to see the stark differences.
Overall I felt, enjoyable and well-written though it was, the pacing and the matter of fact ending just drained a bit of the enjoyment for me. I do like how the reader was essentially tasked with deciding where their conscience lay throughout. As I said before, I’d certainly read other works in a similar vein as this.