His Bloody Project – Graeme Macrae Burnet

Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize 2016, I only just managed to scrape this one in before the winner was announced this morning. His Bloody Project was the book on the short list that most captured my interest from the synopsis. A heinous crime has been committed and yet the murderer has freely admitted his guilt. While his motive for killing one victim is clear, for what reason did he commit the other two? This is Law and Order in the Scottish Highlands circa the 1860’s.


I was a little disappointed when I first picked up this novel and realised that it wasn’t straight text from the point of view of the accused. Instead there are statements, maps, medical reports, the trial itself and the all important account from Roddy, the accused. My disappointment quickly abated when I started reading and found I really enjoyed the character statements, maps etc. as it really set the scene and got my brain moving, already trying to understand, forming my own hypotheses. The way the book was split really increased the pace and how I responded to the book. In fact, for a Man Booker short-lister I was surprised at how easy a read I found it, typically I find the books much more challenging, enjoyable, but definitely more challenging. In fact if I had the time I could have easily finished this in a day but due to an extremely busy week dragged it out over a week. Not that I would have changed it, I found the increased reading period game me more time to ponder the ideas and think about the book.


I realised what made this book go from good to great and propelled it into the short list. After Roddy’s account I thought I knew what had happened that day, I though I understood all his motivations and that where this book really was leading what watching how it would play out in a courtroom. I wasn’t wrong, it is all about the courtroom and how the case is pleaded, however, they do throw you some curve balls. These curve balls I didn’t see coming and I found really pulled this novel together for me. Taking it to the next level, these revelations blur what you think has happened and make you question everything. The beauty is that in the end you are left to make your own conclusions without a clear answer either way.


I feel this review is a little short and sweet but given this novel is a short read itself and there is only so much plot I can’t say much more without spoilers. Honestly this book is a slightly unusual read that has it all, mystery, revenge, romance and murder. I would definitely recommend giving it a go and seeing for yourself why it made the man Booker Prize shortlist. I give His Bloody Project four sheep, perhaps where Roddy’s problems all began.


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