His Bloody Project – Graeme Macrae Burnet

The bulk of this book, which in full is called His Bloody Project: Documents relating to the case of Roderick Macrae, is a narrative supposedly written by a young crofter while awaiting trial for multiple murders. Around the edge is some documentary stuff about the trial to provide an air of verisimilitude and an underlying debate about mental illness and the emergence of psychology and psychiatry as disciplines. It reminded me a bit of Foucault’s ‘Discipline and Punish’ for the mix of science and fiction and potted history!

Where it gets problematic is in the boy’s narrative which is a little too knowing for me in some respects and ignorant in others and then the narration of the documentary stuff is not sufficiently different in style and tone. Somehow that makes the overall effect unconvincing.

The book also doesn’t take the reader into the intricacies of the crofter life – it is a received view so we don’t know what binds the society together part from a vague acceptance of feudalism. A lot of bannocks get eaten and sometimes the local flavour is clumsily conveyed by using the odd dialect word.

It is still not a bad read but an elaboration and understanding of crofter culture it is not although I can see some might see it as such. All in all okay, but not a classic!


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