Thursday, September 12, 2019

His Bloody Project

His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae by Graeme Macrae Burnet is a highly detailed historical crime novel that reads like a non-fiction account of true crime. Roderick Macrae was arrested in 1869 for the brutal murders of Lachlan Mackenzie (aka Lachlan Broad) and his 15 year old daughter and young son. There is never any question that Roddy Macrae is committed the crimes--he admits it straight off and never recants his confession. The only thing in question--and that is seemingly only questioned by his advocate--is whether Roddy was completely sane at the time of the murders. The book tells the story through documents of the time--primarily through Roddy's memoir, written in prison while awaiting trial, but also including a series of police statements taken from his neighbors and doctor's statements about the condition of the bodies. His advocate spends a great deal of time working on the definition of sanity (in terms of culpability under the law) and makes an extraordinarily impassioned plea for Roddy in his closing arguments. Though the verdict is pretty firmly given in the book, the reader is still left with a feeling that perhaps the whole story has not been told.

An interesting look at what drives someone to murder and when sanity and culpability can be questioned...the psychology and actions of both Roderick Macrae and all those around him work together to bring him to what seems to him an inevitable event. He tries to trace where it all began--the moment in his life when his course was set and there was no turning back from the path that leads him to the gallows. The book itself examines Roddy's conclusions about the events and asks the reader to make their own decisions about whether he was truly sane and if he was--whether his motives for the murders were really those he provided in his memoir.

An absorbing read that seemed all too real. I had to remind myself as I was reading that this was fiction. Burnet does an incredible job bringing the people and events to life.  ★★★★

Deaths = 3 (all hit with object)


Brona said...

I still recommend this book to anyone who will listen.
I love how Burnett built up the sense of oppression and hopelessness that can happen in tiny, remote villages. It was superb storytelling.

Bev Hankins said...

Yes. It was very good indeed.