This book has an interesting style. It is fiction but is written as if it is true crime with the text made up primarily of witness accounts and trial documents and reports. The crime in question is the murder of a Scottish crofter and his young son and daughter, the criminal is one of his neighbours, a 17-year-old boy, Roderick Macrae. It is set in 1869 in the Highlands of Scotland.
Most of the book is an account written by Roderick (who freely admits his guilt) of the circumstances leading up to his crime. It makes fascinating reading, not just because of the crime, but because of the picture it paints of life as a 19th century crofter. People living as peasants long after the industrial revolution had swept the rest of the country.
The story also offers an element of mystery. Not as to who did the crime, as that is pretty clear, but why. Because he is so open about his guilt Roderick seems a reliable witness but aspects of his account don’t tally with evidence found in court documents. Did he really kill the family driven by family pride after a prolonged disagreement as he claims or did he actually have baser motives?
It is a very interesting and well written book. Mysterious and offers a glimpse into a world very different from modern Britain.