Shortlisted for the 2022 Gordon Burn Prize • Shortlisted for the 2022 Ned Kelly Awards • Longlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize • Longlisted for the 2022 HWA Gold Crown Award • Longlisted for the 2023 Dublin Literary Award
SELECTED BY NEW YORK TIMES AS ONE OF 100 NOTABLE BOOKS OF 2022
The Booker-shortlisted author of His Bloody Project blurs the lines between patient and therapist, fiction and documentation, and reality and dark imagination.
London, 1965. 'I have decided to write down everything that happens, because I feel, I suppose, I may be putting myself in danger,' writes an anonymous patient, a young woman investigating her sister's suicide. In the guise of a dynamic and troubled alter-ego named Rebecca Smyth, she makes an appointment with the notorious and roughly charismatic psychotherapist Collins Braithwaite, whom she believes is responsible for her sister's death. But in this world of beguilement and bamboozlement, neither she nor we can be certain of anything.
Case Study is a novel as slippery as it is riveting, as playful as it is sinister, a meditation on truth, sanity, and the instability of identity by one of the most inventive novelists of our time.
Praise for Case Study
"Case Study has a lot in common with the novels of Vladimir Nabokov and Roberto Bolaño, in which invented characters pass through tumultuous episodes of literary history that never quite happened, though it seems as if they should have ... Case Study is a diverting novel, overflowing with clever plays on and inversions of tropes of English intellectual and social life during the postwar decades."
—New York Times
"A mystery story—or is it?—that takes us into the heart of the psychoanalytical consulting room. Or does it? Interleaving a biography of radical '60s 'untherapist' Collins Braithwaite with the notebooks of his patient 'Rebecca', a young woman seeking answers about the death of her sister, 'GMB' presents a forensic, elusive and mordantly funny text(s) layered with questions about authenticity and the self."
—2022 Booker Prize Jury Statement
"A twisting and often wickedly humorous work of crime fiction that meditates on the nature of sanity, identity and truth itself."
—Gordon Burn Prize Jury Citation
"With its layers of imposture and unreliability, the novel suggests that our personhood is far more malleable than we believe."
"The parallel tracks of Case Study are deeply satisfying because they encompass a sense of how we live day-by-day in doubt, often unaware of our own motivations."
"Macrae's novel works on various levels. It is an elaborate, mind-bending guessing game; it is a blackly comic and quietly moving study of a nervous breakdown; and it is a captivating portrait of an egomaniac ... Macrae has reliably delivered another work of fiendish fun."
"Burnet is the ultimate unreliable narrator, and Case Study serves as a worthy addition to his oeuvre."
—Chicago Review of Books
"The fictional author and Burnet share the same initials, which should be a clue as to how close the book will come to breaking the fourth wall ... The matryoshka-style layering of narratives, each dependent on the other, is engaging and disorienting. Case Study is an immersive novel that stretches its fiction to fact-like proportions."
—Foreword Reviews (starred review)
"Case Study is a dizzying dive into British counterculture of the 1960s and the radical anti-psychiatry movement ... wildly inventive and slickly written. The notebooks feel so casually and authentically from the period, with 'Rebecca’s' word choices and the details she includes saying as much about 1960s British society as they do about her place in it. 'Rebecca' is deliciously unreliable as a narrator."
—Jessica Brockmole, Historical Novels Review (Editors' Choice)
"Darkly funny and, at times, deeply weird, Case Study is a dense, complicated, singular work of meta-fiction. It asks deep and important questions without ever shoving them down your throat. Most importantly, though, it tells an interesting and engaging story—three of them, in fact. It’s a ride well worth taking, even if it is sometimes quiet and subtle. Case Study is well-deserving of its praise."
"Ironical, intelligent and intriguing from first page to last, the fourth novel from Glasgow-based Graeme Macrae Burnet ... questions the tricky nature of identity."
—Winnipeg Free Press
"Burnet evokes a place and an era very nicely, in pitch-perfect prose ... Case Study is an artfully twisted and presented fiction about identity and the stories we tell, and a wonderful evocation of 1960s London."
"Burnet weaves together 'found' documents and the biography of a controversial psychologist to create an indelible portrait of a power struggle in 1960s London."
—Vol 1. Brooklyn
"Case Study reflects on relationships of power: the physical power of abusive men over women, the lingering power of memory over oneself."
—The Michigan Daily
"It is a truly riveting novel, entertaining as it makes you question everything about it, and beautifully written. There are no wasted words in this book."
"What decidedly it is is an enticing piece of metafiction that is impossible to put down, but not because it offers generated tension that is happily released when order and safety are restored. Instead it tempts us down one fascinating path after another without promising or providing any solutions."
—Reviewing the Evidence
"A provocative send-up of midcentury British mores and the roots of modern psychotherapy … brisk and engaging."
"Burnet's deployment of multiple narrative structures, his finely tuned depiction of Braithwaite, and the fascinating revelations of the diarist result in an unforgettable story, one that will rattle readers long after its startling, disorientating ending."
“Encourages us to look more closely at the inherent instability of fiction itself … genuinely affecting … a very funny book.”
—Nina Allan, The Guardian
"Burnet propels readers through the novel with his fierce, hilarious intelligence."
“Brilliant, bamboozling … Burnet captures his characters’ voices so brilliantly that what might have been just an intellectual game feels burstingly alive and engaging.”
“A riveting psychological plot ... tortuous, cunning ... clever. ”
—Times Literary Supplement
“Burnet’s triumph is that it’s a page-turning blast, funny, sinister and perfectly plotted so as to reveal—or withhold—its secrets in a consistently satisfying way … Rarely has being constantly wrong-footed been so much fun.”
“Such is Burnet’s skill that he immediately convinces the reader that everything he is about to say is based on historical fact … brilliantly depicted … intriguing … compulsive reading.”
“You’ll be completely beguiled by this sly, darkly comic offering, with its unreliable narrator and its equally unreliable author.”
—Mail on Sunday
“What’s real and what’s not is beside the point in this skillful portrait of a disturbed woman and her encounters with an experimental 1960s psychotherapist … Both strands quickly become compelling … I was hooked like a fish.”
"Macrae Burnett has created a dynamic work that has excellent characterisation with acute observation. The writing is layered but there is no use of superfluous words. While the themes are profound, the style is both intriguing and playful. He has created a book that is thought provoking and a compulsive read."
—Limerick City and County Libraries, Ireland
Praise for Graeme Macrae Burnet's His Bloody Project
"It’s only a story—or is it? Graeme Macrae Burnet makes such masterly use of the narrative form that the horrifying tale he tells in His Bloody Project ... seems plucked straight out of Scotland’s sanguinary historical archives.”
—New York Times Book Review
“Both a horrific tale of violence and a rumination on the societal problems for poor sharecroppers of the era.”
“[A] powerful, absorbing novel … Authors from Henry James to Vladimir Nabokov to Gillian Flynn have used [an unreliable narrator] to induce ambiguity, heighten suspense and fold an alternative story between the lines of a printed text. Mr. Burnet, a Glasgow author, does all of that and more in this page-turning period account of pathos and violence in 19th-century Scotland … [A] cleverly constructed tale … Has the lineaments of the crime thriller but some of the sociology of a Thomas Hardy novel.”
—Wall Street Journal
“Recalls William Styron’s The Confessions of Nat Turner in the way it portrays an abused people and makes the ensuing violence understandable … His Bloody Project shows that the power held by landowners and overseers allowed cruelties just like those suffered by the Virginia slaves in Confessions. Halfway between a thriller and a sociological study of an exploitive economic system with eerie echoes to our own time, His Bloody Project is a gripping and relevant read.”
“A thriller with a fine literary pedigree ... His Bloody Project offers an intricate, interactive puzzle, a crime novel written, excuse my British, bloody well.”
—Los Angeles Times