Book Review: His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet


If you’re looking for a book to immerse yourself with this weekend let me introduce you to His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2016, this book published by a little known Scottish independent publisher exceeded all sales expectations to the point where it could not keep up with demand (see an interesting article in the Guardian about this here) and it is no surprise why.

Burnet’s second novel is gripping, engrossing and surprisingly darkly funny. Whilst the entire story is about (and a large part written by) a fictitious a 17 year old murderer who committed a triple homicide you would be fooled for thinking that this is a just a crime novel.

The (again, I stress, fictitious) premise of the story centres around Burnet (the author), whilst researching his ancestral history, stumbling upon papers detailing a brutal triple homicide committed by member of his family.  We are introduced to the crime by reading excerpts of witness statements of the residents of a small hamlet in Scotland where the crime was committed and the murderer resided.  We learn through these excerpts that Roderick (the murderer) was a quiet yet clever individual.

What sets this ‘crime novel’ apart from others is that the story within the story is that of the murderer.  Roderick writes his account “at the behest of [his] advocate” of the events leading up to the murder which he at no point denies committing.  He maintains that he did what he did with “the sole purpose of delivering [his father] from the tribulations [his father] has lately suffered.” On the face of it, that is exactly the story.  However, as Roderick’s account develops we see a potential different motive…his increasingly affectionate feelings to a young woman (one of the three he ends up killing). I won’t ruin the ending or explain how the murders actually happened but I will just put out there that I wonder whether the motive Roderick provides is true. One would be forgiven for thinking it was on the basis Roderick seems to be candidly putting his cards on the table – holding nothing back…but there is this niggling feeling I have…I am not convinced!

I so desperately wanted this to be a true story.  It felt real.  It was written beautifully – I devoured it within a day.  When I met Burnet at the Man Booker Shortlist readings (my post on that here) he was wonderfully witty and signed my book in an ingenious way by putting a thumbprint on the front cover – brilliant.


Have you read this novel?  Do you consider it to be a ‘crime novel’ – if so, do you think it was appropriate for the nomination for the Man Booker Prize? Do you think the motive for the murders was as Roderick ‘confesses’?

I would love to hear your views on it!



Recommended for: those who enjoy crime fiction

Rating: 5/5

Favourite quote: “‘The hanging’, stated the doctor’s report, was ‘conducted in an exemplary fashion, and no undue suffering was caused to the prisoner.‘”

Thanks for reading – I hope you enjoyed it!

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