Alias Grace is a fictional account of the notorious 1843 murders of Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery in Upper Canada.
Two servants of the Kinnear household, Grace Marks and James McDermott, were convicted of the crime. McDermott was hanged and Marks was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Although the novel is based on factual events, Atwood constructs a narrative with a fictional doctor, Simon Jordan, who researches the case. Although ostensibly conducting research into criminal behaviour, he slowly becomes personally involved in the story of Grace Marks and seeks to reconcile his perception of the mild-mannered woman he sees with the murder of which she has been convicted.