Review: His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

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Star rating: 3/5

Synopsis: This book consists of fictional documents relating to the triple homicide committed by Roderick Macrae, a 19th century crofter from the Scottish highlands. Through witness accounts, Macrae’s own memoir and a transcript of the trial, the story unfolds with unanswered questions and a slew of unreliable narrators.

Review: Although there was nothing particularly wrong with this book, it just didn’t grip me in the way I expected it to. I felt as though I would be left with a less firm idea of whether Roderick was in his right mind by the end of the novel, but the small inconsistencies in his narrative weren’t significant enough to the narrative to be intriguing. There were some clever allusions to modern psychological and social theories, but felt forced and overly academic in what became an almost pantomime-esque section of the book so the overall effect was lost on me.

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Mystery & Thriller Recommendations

HISTORICALFICTIONRECOMMENDATIONS (1)

 

It’s finally Halloween season, so to celebrate the nights getting darker and people’s book recommendations getting spookier, here are six mystery/thriller books that I’d recommend for your autumn TBR.

 

After the Funeral, Agatha Christie

No mystery list is complete without an Agatha Christie, but I thought I’d share one of my favourites that you may not have heard of before. This is a Poirot story, and he is called in to investigate the suspicious  sequential deaths of a brother and sister. Full of family mysteries, memorable characters and atmospheric settings, in her usual style Christie keeps you guessing until the end.\

 

Misery, Stephen King

Similarly, no list of thrillers is without a Stephen King novel. I read Misery while sat on a beach in Greece, and still managed to get the chills. A famous writer is recused by his biggest fan from a crippling car accident, but he quickly realises that she is not nursing him back to health, but keeping him captive in her house. Part psychological thriller and part horror, this book is heart-stopping and spine-chilling, with intelligent writing and horrifyingly believable characters.

 

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, Matthew J. Sullivan

I recently published a full review of this book, but in a nutshell this book is the story of a suicide, a code, a murderer, and family secrets, and if that weren’t enough to tempt you, it’s seemingly cosy bookshop setting might.

 

This is Where it Ends, Marieke Nijkamp

This is a multiple perspective YA novel set during a high school shooting. Nijkamp manages to capture the fear an horror of the situation as well as the personalities and stories of all the main characters, along with heart-stopping action sequences and a cry for gun control. I had to read this in one sitting because I couldn’t bear to put it down.

 

We Were Liars, E. Lockhart

Another YA pick, but rather than a thriller this is a fairly short mystery that slowly unravels into a huge plot twist at the end. It follows a girl through her summers on her families island, as well as the evolution of her friendships with three friends, the ‘liars’. This little novel is dark and atmospheric, exploring the secrets kept in rich families and how isolation and selfishness backfires with shocking consequences.

 

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle

Although everyone has heard of Sherlock Holmes, a surprising number of people have never read the original stories, which despite their age are extremely easy to read and are delightfully clever. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a volume of short stories, meaning they’re easy to work your way through and still manage to build tension and rich plots within less than 100 pages apiece.

Review: The Ashes of London, Andrew Taylor

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✮✮✮☆☆

 

London, September 1666. The Great Fire rages through the city, consuming everything in its path. Even the impregnable cathedral of St. Paul’s is engulfed in flames and reduced to ruins. Among the crowds watching its destruction is James Marwood, son of a disgraced printer, and reluctant government informer.

In the aftermath of the fire, a semi-mummified body is discovered in the ashes of St. Paul’s, in a tomb that should have been empty. The man’s body has been mutilated and his thumbs have been tied behind his back.

Under orders from the government, Marwood is tasked with hunting down the killer across the devastated city. But at a time of dangerous internal dissent and the threat of foreign invasion, Marwood finds his investigation leads him into treacherous waters – and across the path of a determined, beautiful and vengeful young woman.

CONTENT WARNING: Rape and sexual assault.

 

Why I picked this book up:

I was in the midst of a reading slump when I decided to pick up this book on a whim in Waterstones last week. I tend to find that murder mysteries are great easy reads that I fly through, so I thought this book would be perfect to get myself excited about reading again. This period of British history is also something that I’ve read about and hugely enjoyed before, so I thought that the context I already had for the 17th century would help in getting myself through this a little quicker.

 

The bad: 

First and foremost, I really felt as though this book could have been severely trimmed down, by at least 50 pages. Some scenes gave a huge amount of unnecessary observations on behalf of the characters, and considering one of the two protagonists (James Marwood, possibly the wettest lettuce alive) didn’t ever seem to have anything interesting to say, it really dragged in places for me. I was also expecting something much more fast paced, whereas The Ashes of London ended up relying more on the historical fiction side of things than the murder mystery, which is the part I was most looking forward to. For the majority of the book, there was hardly any mystery at all, and only a small twist at the end seemed to give any excitement. I did enjoy the main female protagonist, Cat, who seemed to have much more personality than her male counterpart, but she still felt a little stilted. Her slightly feminist leanings and opinions seemed a little forced in, and the phrasing of them slightly too modern to be believable, but admittedly it did give her much more depth and motivation.

 

The good:

I think the aspect of the narrative that Taylor handled the best was his depiction of the aftermath of rape. The scene itself was not shown, but the raw emotion and gut reactions to the male touch afterwards were extremely heartfelt. Unlike other historical fiction and even fantasy I’ve read previously, this plot point did not seem throw-away in order to give some ‘edge’. Instead the act was pivotal to the main plot, and was handled delicately enough to be realistic and sympathetic without being too graphic or character defining for the victim. I also enjoyed the obviously excellently well-researched religious exploration that occurred throughout, and Taylor dealt with some complex issues surrounding how the beliefs and actions of parents can affect their children and legacy.

 

Overall rating: 3/5