Sunday, 27 November 2016


This book is made up of supposedly real life documents relating to the case of Roderick Macrae, a murder Graeme Macrae Burnet apparently came across when he was researching his family history.

Roderick's own account of the what happened takes up the first half of the novel and then is followed by witness statements, a mental examination by a leading authority on criminal insanity, and then reports of the trial itself.  The events are set in the Scottish Highlands late 1860s-1870s. in a remote crofting community, the main character is a seventeen year old who has by his own admission committed a triple murder, and the question is whether he was insane and therefore not able to be hanged for his crimes.  

The first half is the account written by the defendant Roddy himself and I have to say this is my favourite part of the book.  Roddy's voice seems so believable and honest.  Burnet has created such an authentic voice for Roddy that should be highly commended.

I found myself warming to him despite the terrible deeds he has committed and after reading his account I did feel sympathy for him and his situation.  

The second half of the book was more bitty as it was broken into more parts however as the trial progressed it becomes apparent that not all the accounts are adding up and who is to be believed?  This kept the book interesting and kept me wanting to turn the page.

This book is a very clever book and focuses on an area that I naturally have an interest in: law and particularly why criminal commit their crimes.  I thought the questioning of insanity was particularly interesting and it added another layer to the book which I thought was a welcome addition.  

The book was easy to read and its writing is not convoluted but straight forward in style.  However I do think the first half of the book is the better half and the second half did lack the intensity that was created in Roddy's account.  But the first half the book was amazing so it was always going to be a big ask to keep it going at that standard.

I really enjoyed it though and would say it was one of the best books I have read this year, and I am still none the wiser on how much is fact and how much is fiction which I thought was a really clever way to leave it by the author.  

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