Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
His Bloody Project Paperback – November 6, 2015
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
"Spellbinding ... Riveting, dark and ingeniously constructed." - Edmund Gordon, Sunday Times. "The book's pretence at veracity, as well as being a literary jeux d'esprit, brings an extraordinary historical period into focus, while the multiple unreliable perspectives are designed to keep the audience wondering, throughout the novel and beyond. This is a fiendishly readable tale that richly deserves the wider attention the Booker has brought it." - Justine Jordan, The Guardian. "An astonishing piece of writing... a voice that sounds startlingly authentic." - Jake Kerridge, The Telegraph. "Gripping, blackly playful and intelligent, it deserves a space on the shortlist. It's one of the few that may set the heather - and imagination - ablaze." - Robbie Millen, The Times. "Graeme Macrae Burnet's His Bloody Project is a gripping crime story, a deeply imagined historical novel, and gloriously written - all in one tour-de-force of a book. Stevensonian - that's the highest praise I can give." - Chris Dolan, Book of the Year, The Herald. "The Man Booker judges got it right: this really is one of the most convincing and engrossing novels of the year." - David Robinson, The Scotsman. "A real box of tricks... a truly ingenious thriller as confusingly multilayered as an Escher staircase." Jake Kerridge,Express. "A historical revenge tragedy and courtroom drama... [are] at the heart of this masterful psychological thriller." Ian Stephen "Masterful, clever and playful. It is every inch the riveting second novel I had hoped for." Louise Hutcheson, A Novel Bookblog.
About the Author
Graeme Macrae Burnet is one of Scotland's brightest literary talents. Born and brought up in Kilmarnock, he spent some years working as an English teacher in Prague, Bordeaux, Porto and London, before returning to Glasgow and working for eight years for various independent television companies. He has degrees in English Literature and International Security Studies from Glasgow and St Andrews universities respectively. His first novel, The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau (Contraband, 2014), received a New Writer's Award from the Scottish Book Trust, was longlisted for the Waverton Good Read Award and was a minor cult hit. Set in small-town France, it is a compelling psychological portrayal of a peculiar outsider pushed to the limit by his own feverish imagination. His second novel, His Bloody Project, has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2016. He is currently working on another novel featuring Georges Gorski, the haunted detective in The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau.
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
Then the last third of the book happened and I was blown away. Those bits of the story that had niggled at your brain from earlier on that weren't properly addressed came into play. One is left with questions regarding the justice system, the death penalty and criminal insanity - particularly, in this instance, the diagnosis of it and what it would mean for the individual (either hanging or a life, likely spent in an asylum). Class issues are raised in this section as well. It was here that I really saw what the Man Booker judges did as well as gained a better appreciation of the earlier parts of this book. This doesn't mean that I feel it should necessarily win the prize (I won't make any such determination yet), but I can see why it was nominated.
This review may seem spoilerish, but I was careful to make sure that it isn't. I haven't included any information that one can't glean from the blurb, the table of contents or the first few pages. Now, stop reading this review and go read this book!
little about my grandfather, Donald 'Tramp' Macrae, who was
born in 1890 in Applecross, two or three miles north of Culduie.
It was in the course of my research at the Highland Archive
Centre in Inverness that I came across some newspaper clippings
describing the trial of Roderick Macrae, and with the assistance
of Anne O'Hanlon, the archivist there, discovered the manuscript
which comprises the largest part of this volume.
Immediately upon finishing this latest Man Booker nominee, I turned back to the author's introduction to check whether I had been reading genuine documents about a true case, or the imaginative products of a clever author with an uncanny sense of style. I think the latter, but even now I cannot be quite sure. The larger part of this book is, as Macrae Burnet tells us, the memoir written in 1869 by 17-year-old Roderick John Macrae at the request of his solicitor while he is awaiting trial in Inverness Castle. He freely admits to killing Lachlan Mackenzie (commonly known as Lachlan Broad) and two other people in the former's house in Culduie, Wester Ross, in order to relieve his father of the persecution he was suffering at Mackenzie's hands. From beginning to end of the book, there is no dispute about these facts; all that remains to be filled in are the details, motivation, and the question of moral guilt.
Roddy Macrae's memoir takes up the first half of the book. It is preceded by various written statements made at the time by neighbors, the local schoolteacher, and the Presbyterian minister, which show a wide variety of opinions, revealing the character of each writer quite as much as that of their subject. It is an extraordinarily compact way of depicting the small crofting community, the various rivalries within it, and the constricting power of the Kirk. The latter part of the book consists of reports of the trial and its aftermath. Burnet is pitch-perfect in capturing the tone of depositions, official documents, and newspaper reports, but nothing is astounding as Roddy's narrative itself, which not only nails the style of 19th-century Scots prose* (think Stevenson) but also recreates the social and moral world in which the tragedy plays itself out.
Culduie is a real place, on the west coast of Scotland a little bit north of the Isle of Skye. Beautiful though it seems to tourist eyes, in the 19th-century it must have been a place of feudal squalor. Here and elsewhere, huge swaths of coast and mountain would be owned by a Laird, and used largely for the purpose of hunting and fishing. The lands would be managed by a Factor, who would assign local jurisdiction to a Constable elected from each area. The crofters lived in little more than hovels, occupying their houses and farming their land at the pleasure of the Laird, and subject to arbitrary rulings on the part of the Constable. Reading this portion of the book made me very angry indeed, not only at the grossly unfair exercise of class privilege, but at the bovine acceptance of it by most of the local people. Here is a snatch of conversation overheard by Roddy at the annual Highland Gathering:
I fell in behind two well-dressed gentlemen and eavesdropped on
their conversation. The first declared in a loud voice, 'It is
easy to forget that such primitives still exist in our country.'
His companion nodded solemnly and wondered aloud whether more
might be done for us. The first gentleman then expressed the
view that it was difficult to assist people who were so incapable
of doing anything for themselves. They then paused to drink from
a flask and watch a knot of girls pass by.
This attitude is echoed by that of the Presbyterian Minister, Mr. Galbraith, who speaks of "a savagism" that the Church has only been partially successful in suppressing. He has no difficulty in asserting that Roddy is a throwback to the primitive type, a noxious individual, enslaved to the Devil. Burnet may have used Galbraith as a scathing example of religion at its worst and least compassionate (he based him, apparently, on a real figure), but there is another aspect to his Presbyterianism that is not much developed in the novel, but which I see as centrally important. The willingness of Roddy's father and his sister Jetta to submit to Lachlan Broad's tyranny is the Calvinist doctrine of Predestination in its crudest form:
You must not say such things, Roddy. If you understood more about
the world, your would see that Lachlan Broad is not responsible.
It is providence that has brought us to this point. It is no more
Lachlan Broad's doing than yours or mine or Father's.
Jetta, who has second sight, tells him that she has foreseen Lachlan's death. The combination of Gaelic superstition and Presbyterian fatalism finally propels Roddy to his act. So we see two theories of his crime: class and religion. The trial, however, will focus on the question of mental confidence. But here we discover something else: that Roddy is not the trustworthy narrator we had thought.** All along, we have been proceeding towards understanding and even sympathy—but then something happens to kick us in the gut. From this horrendous point on, halfway through the book, neither Roddy nor the author is any more to be trusted. The novel becomes a genuine cliffhanger, even as it sinks deeper into tragedy. It is really a superb achievement.
Also as in Stevenson, the text is scattered with dialect Scots words—including the two murder weapons, a croman and a flaughter. Oddly enough, Burnet places his glossary halfway through the book (54% in my Kindle edition). Sassenach readers would be well advised to bookmark it!
In terms of the combination of unreliable narrator with a 19th-century Scottish crime drama, I thought of the novels of Jane Harris, GILLESPIE AND I and THE OBSERVATIONS. Reviews have also compared HIS BLOODY PROJECT to books such as Margaret Atwood's ALIAS GRACE and James Robertson's TESTAMENT OF GIDEON MACK. I am sure many other comparisons are possible. But that does not lessen the stunning originality of the book we have.
The novel was unique, compelling, and darkly fascinating. But it intentionally left several holes and kept details hidden from the readers. Certain events were also skimmed over by all the characters, which was frustrating to me. The ending is also ambiguous, reminding us that no one ever really knows the truth. I was fascinated by our unreliable narrator and haven't been able to stop puzzling over this book. But the lack of emotion, clarity and details prevent this from being a 5 star read for me.
Burnet puts it all together with a light touch, respecting the reader's perceptiveness and intelligence. I'm recommending it to everyone I talk to.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Couldn't put it down...found myself thinking about it long after the book was finished.