His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

His Bloody Project is a classic example of me judging a book by its cover. I was bought this book as a Christmas present in 2017, and it has, I am ashamed to say, sat on my shelf unread… until now.

Four reasons.

  1. It has relatively small print. In my mind small print is a reminder of reading classic literature, and I’m not always in the mood for it – it can be hard graft.
  2. It’s set in 1869 – again, my brain was telling me it would be a challenging period drama with difficult language.
  3. Quite a significant portion of the text is a legal trial. Brain: Hmmm… legal stuff. That’s going to be a lot of jargon I don’t understand. That might be tricky.
  4. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Brain: Man Booker texts can be works of literary fiction that are hard to break into. You’re not going to enjoy this.


I weighed it all up and my conclusion was a big fat, ‘Nah.’
So now of course I have to write a blog eating my words.


  1. On closer inspection, the text really isn’t that small, nor is the book that long.
  2. The language is not difficult at all. I discovered that Graeme has even provided a glossary of terms for some of the heritage terms.
  3. There is very little jargon. The trial is presented by newspaper extracts and onlookers, and much of it concise dialogue between witnesses, judge and the cross examination process.
  4. This book is not difficult to settle into – I got into a great habitual routine of 20 pages a night before bed. It might not be my quickest read, but it’s certainly not the hardest.


Ultimately, I was being lazy and unfair with this book.

It is a great piece of heritage crime fiction. Roddy Macrae’s bleak existence would rival, if not beat, Thomas Hardy’s Jude Fawley.

Roddy has murdered three people. That is clear. But was he of sound mind when he committed this crime? Graeme does a masterful job of getting the reader to bond with Roddy, as he details his hard, desolate life penned in a memoir in his prison cell. Lachlan Broad, one of his victims, is a tyrant and a menace. He tortures the Macrae family like a cat does with a mouse it has not yet killed. We understand the motives that led Roddy to kill – or do we?

In a medical report of the victims, information comes to light which Roddy has omitted from his journal, and suddenly he is cast in a different light. Certain bits of information are also left out of the trial – could this make a difference to the verdict?

In our modern age where information is constantly at our fingertips, and the advancement in forensic science is staggering, it is frustrating to be thrust into a world where questions go unanswered and we don’t get all the facts. It forces us to become an additional member of the jury, based on the evidence we have been privy to. Was Roddy Macrae insane? Was he? I’m still deciding…