Book Title and Author: Macbeth by Jo Nesbø
Publication Date and Publisher: April 10, 2018 by Hogarth Press
Genre: Fiction, Suspense, Crime Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 512 pages
Buy on Amazon.com
Date Read: April 09, 2018 (e-arc)
Set in the 1970s in a run-down, rainy industrial town, Jo Nesbo’s Macbeth centers around a police force struggling to shed an incessant drug problem. Duncan, chief of police, is idealistic and visionary, a dream to the townspeople but a nightmare for criminals. The drug trade is ruled by two drug lords, one of whom—a master of manipulation named Hecate—has connections with the highest in power, and plans to use them to get his way.
Hecate’s plot hinges on steadily, insidiously manipulating Inspector Macbeth: the head of SWAT and a man already susceptible to violent and paranoid tendencies. What follows is an unputdownable story of love and guilt, political ambition, and greed for more, exploring the darkest corners of human nature, and the aspirations of the criminal mind.
Jo Nesbø was the perfect pick for Hogarth’s Shakespeare retelling of Macbeth. Macbeth is a daunting play to take on, and my personal favorite of the Shakespearean tragedies, so the author chosen for such an ambitious feat had to be able to handle the darkness, depravity, and thirst for power so integral to the story. Nesbø certainly is no stranger to writing characters who are dark, sinister, and morally corrupt, and he was able to (almost) effortlessly transform Shakespeare’s 17th-century play into a violent, cruel crime fiction novel set in 1970s Scotland amid corrupt police and warring drug gangs, which really was a perfect setting since even though Shakespeare might not have realized this back in 1606, but Macbeth really was a precursor to today’s modern psychological suspense novels.
All the characters are there: Duncan, chief of the police, Macbeth, head of SWAT, Banquo, part of SWAT and his loyal friend, Duff (MacDuff), head of Narcotics and ready to move up in the ranks, Lady, Macbeth’s lover, owner of a high-class casino, and the driving force behind Macbeth’s sudden ambitions, and Hecate, drug lord and local crime boss with an otherworldly air. So the time and place have changed, yet the players and their roles not so much. If you’ve read Macbeth, you’re pretty much going to know what will happen since you can’t completely ever immerse yourself in the book because you know in the back of your mind that this is a retelling of Shakespeare. Still, that keeping you in the moment and not letting you forget that this is Macbeth isn’t a bad thing, especially since Nesbø is so clever at making the story modern-day and having the characters fuse identity with their 17th-century counterpart that you felt almost like you were in two places at once. The result is extremely atmospheric, highly dramatic, and beyond clever while filled with the originals chaos, darkness, and tragic conflict of moral code.
My only complaint was that the book, at over 500 pages, was unnecessarily too long. After a while, it felt like it was a struggle in some places to get through. It’s still a highly readable book and if you like Nesbø, you should definitely pick it up. If you like Macbeth, then it’s even more worth reading. Nesbø’s really managed to capture the spirit of Shakespeare here, which many retellings lack, and he’s delved deep into all the motives that make Macbeth the man, well Macbeth…sex, money, family but most of all, the desire for ambition, power, and control.
**Thank you, Netgalley, Hogarth Press, and Jo Nesbø for an ARC copy in exchange for my fair and honest review.**
About the Author: Jo Nesbø