His Bloody Project is put together as if a collection of court documents, and so it is is titled. It tells the supposedly true story of the murder of Lachlan Mackenzie by a crofter called Roderick Macrae in the Scottish highlands in the 19th century. We view the story mostly through the account given to us by Roderick himself, who describes in a very straightforward and non-emotional way the background that leads to the bloody project itself. We also hear from various biased witnesses with very skewed and conflicting views of the world: a stuck-up and self-important psychiatrist doctor who sees criminality as something physical and inbred, a relative of Mackenzie who dislikes Roderick and a teacher who always liked him. Even Rodrick's own account cannot be trusted. When details of the injuries inflicted are revealed they do not match Roderick's account, what could be the explanation?
These untrustworthy narrators make the central question of the book all the harder to answer: Was Roderick Macrae insane or sane when he committed the murders?
Roderick certainly has motives. His written account details how harsh life of a crofter was in the Scottish highlands, but his family have a harder life than is fair, mainly due to the cruelties inflicted on them by Lachlan MacKenzie. With no power to oppose such tyranny what would a sane man do? Who could even stay sane in such circumstances?
The other question that we have to consider is the tone of Roderick's account. He never seems fully connected to events something that led me to wonder if he is actually autistic, a diagnosis which is never picked up on my anyone because it probably didn't exist as a condition in the 19th century. The other explanation would be that Roderick's account seems unemotional and cold because it is false. Is Roderick stupid or clever? Is he truthful or dishonest? Is he insane or not? It's a tough call.
I give this thought provoking and interestingly narrated book a 7/10.