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2016 Man Booker Shortlist: His Bloody Project

his bloody project

Four of us read this next shortlist book: His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet. Kate was the only one to correctly predict that it would make the shortlist. Check out what we think of the odds that this book will win the whole thing. 

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet
Published: Oct 2016 (US publication date)
Read our panel’s mini reviews here
Find it/buy it here: His Bloody Project

Amazon synopsis: A brutal triple murder in a remote Scottish farming community in 1869 leads to the arrest of seventeen-year-old Roderick Macrae. There is no question that Macrae committed this terrible act. What would lead such a shy and intelligent boy down this bloody path? And will he hang for his crime?

Presented as a collection of documents discovered by the author, His Bloody Project opens with a series of police statements taken from the villagers of Culdie, Ross-shire. They offer conflicting impressions of the accused; one interviewee recalls Macrae as a gentle and quiet child, while another details him as evil and wicked. Chief among the papers is Roderick Macrae’s own memoirs where he outlines the series of events leading up to the murder in eloquent and affectless prose. There follow medical reports, psychological evaluations, a courtroom transcript from the trial, and other documents that throw both Macrae’s motive and his sanity into question.

Graeme Macrae Burnet’s multilayered narrative—centered around an unreliable narrator—will keep the reader guessing to the very end. His Bloody Project is a deeply imagined crime novel that is both thrilling and luridly entertaining from an exceptional new voice.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: An interesting retelling of a historical court case.
Why it could win: The unusual way in which the case of Roddy is presented, in terms of the historical aspects of the case, the use of witness statements and Roddy’s own testimony to form the narrative. The fact that the reader is not concerned with guilt or innocence but why.
Why it might not win: The real life crime and courtroom scenario as a basis for a novel is not that original and has been done several times.

Kate’s Thoughts : McRae’s novel melds the crime/courtroom drama genre with historical fiction in a fascinating but ultimately sad tale of the crushing inequities of life for the common people the Scottish Highlands of the late nineteenth century.
Why it could win:This would be a dark horse winner but I selected it for the short list solely on the basis that I couldn’t get the characters out of my mind long after I finished the novel.
Why it might not win: “True” crime and legal procedure tales are not exactly cutting edge even if they do play out in a fairly unique setting.

Jen’s Thoughts: I ultimately enjoyed this book after finding myself bored the first half. I enjoyed the psychological elements and the ways in which it highlighted mental health and legal issues of the time period.
Why it could win: I think it’s a long shot that this book will win. However, Man Booker judges do tend to pick historical fiction and this one may be have a unique twist on standard historical fiction that it could be a dark horse. I didn’t think this would make the shortlist and I was wrong about that, so I could be wrong this time.
Why it might not win: While a relatively engaging read, this book didn’t stand out to me among the pack. If you look at the betting odds (yes, there are betting odds for Man Booker Prize) it falls in the top half for the books. I just don’t think it’s quite special enough to take home the prize.

Nicole’s Thoughts:   This certainly wasn’t my favorite book.  Parts of it dragged for me, and parts were really good.  I thought it was told creatively.
Why it could win: Creative structure, an interesting take on historical fiction
Why it might not win: A creative structure doesn’t take away the fact that it was basically nothing new in terms of story.

We want to hear from you. Have you read it? What did you think? Do you think it will win the 2016 Man Booker?

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. I haven’t read His Bloody Project yet but this discussion changed my mind about adding it to my TBR list (from nay to yay).

    Liked by 1 person

    October 17, 2016
  2. Still haven’t got around to this and not likely to now before the winner announcement. Interesting that at our thoughts were it would not win because it’s crime genre. Yet a few years ago the judge s chose The Luminaries do not impossible. But I’d agree it’s a long shot.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 18, 2016
    • true about the Luminaries but for me that book was much more than a crime novel. More so than His Bloody Project which falls squarely into that genre. but you make a good point

      Liked by 1 person

      October 18, 2016
      • I know there was an astrological dimension to the Luminaries – which I didn’t get at all. Fair point that it wasnt only about the crime – I did get to learn a fair bit about gold prospecting settlements in NZ

        Liked by 1 person

        October 21, 2016
  3. Because of the book’s bloody cover, I had thought Graeme Macrae Burnet was a pen name since the words Graeme and Macrae could be riffs on Grim and Macabre, but that’s probably just my overactive imagination.

    I like the sound of this, but I agree with most of you. I don’t recall any true crime novels winning the Booker.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 18, 2016

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