I spotted this book online and couldn’t resist the cover and the synopsis, however, this book didn’t turn out to be exactly what I expected. I was anticipating a mystery thriller, but instead what I got was an introduction to this town and its social dynamic, and a trial in which there seems only one way the verdict can go.
This tale is set in 1869 in the Scottish Highlands and follows Roderick Macrae. Macrae has been accused of murder, and with multiple eye-witnesses, his guilt is assured, but why did he do it? This story unfolds with a variety of different time periods and writing types, with times before the murder, after the murder but before the trial, and the most “modern” time period is during the trial itself. There are also the different types of documents used within the text, including Macrae’s memoir, police statements, a psychiatrists account and more.
The historical setting of this novel is different to any I have read before, as it is set in the Scottish Highlands after the English have essentially taken over Scotland. The use of Scottish Gaelic is thought of as a savage tongue rather than the beautiful language of the native people, and those who speak English are held in a higher regard. I had always been curious as to how the native tongue fell out of speech, as I am half Scottish myself, and this account seems to have satisfied that itch for me. Of course it is a fiction book, however, there seems to be a lot that is accurate about the time period etc within this story.
Although Macrae is guilty, definitely, there are various reasons that you man feel bad for him (like I did). For starters, he just genuinely seems nice when we look into the past! That always helps haha, but also you see that there are many very good reasons for the intent behind his actions. Of course his actions are atrocious, however, you can really see why he decided to go down this route. He also seems to have some mental issues, which may be why he went such an extreme route in acting out his intent, and this is a fatal flaw in his defense. It’s the 1800s, mental health isn’t going to be looked at in the same way as it is nowadays.
This being a piece of fiction is another important point, this book very much feels like a non-fiction account and I checked multiple times throughout reading it that it wasn’t actually an account of a real-life event. The way it is written very much feels like this is non-fiction, and personally, I feel like this is an achievement by the author to make me (and others who have also searched the same question) believe this work of fiction really happened.
This is an odd book, to say the least. I definitely recommend it, it won’t be for everyone but there is a chance that this odd little book will be exactly what you’ve been waiting for. Give it a go and immerse yourself in this incredibly realistic story of a murderer you’re likely to sympathise with.