Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Published April 2018 by Crown/Archetype as part of the Hogarth Shakespeare Series
Source: my ecopy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review
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.
Confession: I was well into this book before I realized this was a modern retelling of Shakespeare's play. Yes, yes, I know the name of the book, and title character, are a dead giveaway. As is the fact that Macbeth's lady love is, in fact, called Lady. And it's only been a year since I've seen the play! Which may account for why it was the secondary character's names that started to ring a bell with me. No need to shame me; I'm already hanging my head in shame.
Here's my only excuse: for the first 75 pages or so, this was just the wrong book at the wrong time. My mind was just not engaged. Until the little light bulb went off in my head. As soon as I wised up to the fact that this was a modern retelling of one of Shakespeare's greatest plays, I was hooked.
The mood is dark, the action is nonstop, and Nesbo has done an impressive job moving the story into a 1970's, post-industrial country. And an even more impressive job of keeping the reader sucked in to a story when the outcome is a given.
Have you ever read or seen the play and felt sorry for the Macbeths? No, I'm sure your answer is no. Because as brilliant as Shakespeare's play is, the Bard gave us zero information on their histories. Nesbo takes advantage of his longer medium, giving his characters backstories that make readers, if not care for them, at least understand their motivations. The payoff is that it's even harder to watch so many of them die. Because they are going to die. We know that going in (well, at least those who aren't me and know that this is the Macbeth).
If you're a fan of Nesbo, you will not be disappointed. If you're a fan of Shakespeare, you will not be disappointed. I accepted this book for review simply because it was time for me to read something by Nesbo. Count me now as one of his fans.