Book Reviews

Macbeth by Jo Nesbo

Author: Jo Nesbo
Published: April 10, 2018 by Hogarth
Genre: Crime Fiction
Hardcover: 446 pages
My Rating: 3 stars

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.

This book is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare project where Shakespeare’s works are retold by bestselling novelists of today. Jo Nesbo was tasked with the retelling of Macbeth. He is one of the big names in Nordic Noir, having written the Harry Hole series which includes The Snowman and The Thirst. Nesbo has spoken of finding himself on familiar terrain here, arguing that “Macbeth” is essentially a “thriller about the struggle for power” that takes place “in a gloomy, stormy crime noir-like setting and in a dark, paranoid human mind.

Still, there were many challenges with turning this 400 year story into a modern crime fiction novel. Not having read the original Macbeth myself, I was at a bit of a disadvantage in deciphering the similarities in the original story, but as any avid reader might do, I did a little research. As I discovered, having Nesbo’s version take place in the 1970’s among a gang infested, drug addicted population battling corrupt politicians was the perfect translation of Shakespeare’s witches and caldrons. Having the central characters, Macbeth and Lady drug addicted, helped solve the problem of Macbeth’s hallucinations in the original. The gang violence in this retelling lends itself to the extreme violence of the original.

This story permeates with limitless ambition and ruthless self-interest, common themes in the original. It is a dark and violent story that takes place in a gritty atmosphere. It’s very theatrical and has loads of dirty politics, murder, and mayhem. I read this one because I’m a fan of Nesbo’s Harry Hole series, but I definitely think I did not love this as much as readers who have read the original would love it. I missed the comparison to the original, which is a huge appeal of this book.

1 thought on “Macbeth by Jo Nesbo

  1. […] Macbeth by Jo Nesbo Release Date: 4/10/18 Find it on Amazon This is part of a project by The Hogarth Shakespeare library where they have enlisted a number of international bestselling authors to do a modern-day retelling of some of Shakespeare’s greatest works. Jo Nesbo, author of the Harry Hole detective series, is retelling Macbeth. Set in the 1970’s in a run-down, rainy industrial town, Jo Nesbo’s Macbeth centers around a police force struggling to shed an incessant drug problem. The drug trade is ruled by two drug lords, one of whom has connections with the highest in power, and plans to use them to get his way. 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. Update: Read my review HERE. […]

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