The title of the book is not an exclamation. Rather it's a description of the nature of the historical episodes that are set out between its covers. The author says in his introduction: "Bloody Scotland continues my series of nineteenth-century true crime books..." He also says: "While some people may view Scotland as a romantic land of bens and glens, or a nation where nothing much happened, this book may be a revelation." And: "Overall, Scottish crime in the nineteenth century was as varied and fascinating as crime could ever be; but it was also sordid, ugly and cruel."
We've never been sure what it is about true crime books that make them so fascinating to the modern reader. But fascinating they are, especially when they are as thoroughly researched and as well written as Malcolm Archibald's true crime books. There is clearly something about human nature that makes us seek out in print incidents and events that we would try very hard to avoid in real life. And all the more so when those incidents took place in a past that is now so remote we cannot feel any personal connection with it.
Malcolm Archibald has tended to take a thematic approach to organising "Bloody Scotland". Some of the chapters, such as "Resurrection Men", about body snatchers, could only be set in the early decades of the 1800s, while "Pirates of the Hebrides" also belongs to an age long gone. Others, such as "Of Banks and Bankers", have a more contemporary ring to them as, sadly, do chapter titles looking at "Murder in the Family" and "The Curse of Drink". He also takes a detailed look at some specific crimes which have not been covered extensively elsewhere. "The Siege of John Street" (in Dundee) is covered in depth; as is "Robbing the Stirling Mail", when a mail coach was intercepted on 18 December 1824.
Perhaps the real purpose of books like "Bloody Scotland" is to remind us that however bad the tabloid press paints the modern world, in some ways things have improved significantly, and the "good old days" never were so good. If so, then Malcolm Archibald has succeeded brilliantly.