Rambling about books

Book review: His Bloody Project, by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Book cover from Goodreads

It is not enough for you to think that no man could commit such heinous acts and be deemed to be of sound mind. Sane men can and do commit such crimes, and the mere fact of committing such an act does not, in itself, place an individual outside the boundaries of reason.


A brutal triple murder in a remote northwestern crofting community in 1869 leads to the arrest of a young man by the name of Roderick Macrae. There’s no question that Macrae is guilty, but the police and courts must uncover what drove him to murder the local village constable. And who were the other two victims? Ultimately, Macrae’s fate hinges on one key question: is he insane?  Taken from Goodreads.

The Good 

It’s amazing to think that this novel was written by one man. This is not your typical novel, what you’ll be getting from this book is firsthand account of the people’s testimony of Roddy Macrae, the prisoner who is the main character in the book; his self written memoir leading up to the murder that he commit; an excerpt from a doctor who had met him in determining whether or not he was a sane person; and recounts of the three days trial of Roddy Macrae. And through all of those things, you wouldn’t even guess it was all actually written by one same person, the author himself. With Roddy’s memoir, you can hear the naivety of his voice, and from Dr Thomson’s memoir, you can hear his patronising voice. It was such an amazing experience to have read this book and enjoy the many voices written inside it.

The bad

I have to admit that there were moments where I almost gave this book up (I actually did skim several pages, if not skipping it altogether) for how boring it was. Roddy’s memoir, though was very much needed to understand the nature of his attack, was boring to the very core. Roddy’s voice was just too stagnant, and he went on too much details that I could forego. I understand that it wasn’t the any fault of the author, for he has to be Roddy and naive he must be when he was writing the memoir, but what excuse does he have for the recounts of the three days trial? It was repetitive and I genuinely did skip about 6 pages of it.

The ugly

I can’t find anything horrible from this book apart from the ambiguity of certain aspects that were not clearly addressed in the book. There was the argument made by Dr Thomson about the nature and possible the real motive for murder that Roddy commit, but it only appeared literally several pages before the book ends, and therefore were not addressed clearly. I thought it would have made an interesting turnaround had it was discussed further.


There were parts that I found to be completely boring and was unnecessary to the story. But, I have to give credit where it is due, and I think the author is such an amazing person for being able to present so many voices and layers in one single book. At the other end of the spectrum, I never did quite found this book enjoyable. It was interesting, but I didn’t quite enjoy the experience of reading it.

Interesting premise. Absolutely great writing, but not quite enjoyable.

Having said all of those things above, I still would recommend this book for its amazing writing.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️☆☆☆

Title: His Bloody Project

Author: Graeme Macrae Burnet

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

Goodreads link



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