This book has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2016 but don’t let that put you off. It is presented as a series of documents relating to a brutal triple murder in 1869 on the west coast of Scotland. The murderer, seventeen-year-old Roderick Macrae, is the son of a poor crofter barely managing to survive in the remote farming community of Culduie in Ross-shire. The first documents set forth are the brief coroner’s reports on the bodies of Roderick’s three victims. From the start Roderick does not deny his culpability. The following document is a lengthy confession in Roderick’s own words which builds up a picture of an intelligent boy who is by nature an outsider. It also describes his family’s struggle to farm in an unforgiving environment and vividly brings to life the tensions and animosities that can develop to an almost inescapable intensity in small isolated communities. The remaining documents include a psychiatrist’s report and a detailed description of Roderick’s trial. Each of these shines a light on elements of both Roderick’s behaviour and the murders which Roderick did not divulge. A compellingly readable story.
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