Graeme Macrae Burnet

His Bloody Project

"Very powerful stuff."


Set in nineteenth century Scotland in a remote crafting area and based on a real event and on the writings of the young Roderick Macrae as he is detained in gaol awaiting trial. His advocate has asked him to set down the true facts and the boy has agreed because of the advocate's kind treatment of him. There is controversy as to whether the account is true but certainly in the view of the author this is a genuine account of the appalling conditions that the crofters in the highlands of Scotland endured before being unceremoniously 'cleared' from the land of the unscrupulous landlords.

After the death of his much loved mother, young Roderick, who is a bright if slightly unusual child, is beaten by his father, persecuted by one of the crofters, ridiculed by some and taken advantage of by others. His life is dreadful, and he is not good at dealing with relationships. This is the story of how he comes to take his revenge on his persecutors.

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This is not your normal murder mystery. There is no mystery about who has done the crime. Roderick Macrae, a seventeen year old son of a crofter in the Scottish highlands, admits freely to the brutal murder of a fellow crofter and his young daughter. This is, rather, an investigation into the motivations and the terrible treatment of the young boy that leads to the horrific events and a reflection of whether such violence can ever be justified. Macrae's harrowing account of what could happen in those times when the peasant crofter had absolutely no rights appears to be true, and only makes things worse for the reader. The injustice of it all and the noble acceptance of the punishment meted out make for disturbing and moving reading. There are certain books that make me grateful for living in a hopefully more enlightened age and this is one of them. You would hope that nothing like this could happen now. But perhaps that is being ingenuous. The clear writing of Roderick Macrae is incredibly poignant. 'His Bloody Project' is not what I would call a 'feel good' book, but it is one that is well worth buying and reading. Very powerful stuff.

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