Macbeth – Jo Nesbo

It was one of the Christmas gifts from my in-laws. I am a big fan of Nesbo, but mostly sticking to Hary Hole series, so they decided to push me out of my comfort zone a bit. They pushed me out of it more than a bit, as not only is the book not about Hary Hole, but it is over 350 pages long, which as I discovered is my border for a scarily long book. However, with it being a Nesbo and after reading a few quite heave books earlier, I decided to give it a go.

It is a retelling of Macbeth and Nesbo clearly is not hiding it, but somehow my tired brain missed that obvious fact. I thought that the main protagonist name was a coincidence (as if Macbeth was such a popular name). I only started suspecting something when I saw there is also a Duff, and the reality dawned on me when Banquo made an appearance. I have been very slow about it.

Once I got to grips with reality I realized I remember the plot pretty well, having read the play in high-school, seen it a few times in London and watched the movie a few years ago. So there would be no surprises, which kills the tension a bit.

The story is set in the 1970s in a city that reminded me to Gotham a lot. Ridden with unemployment, corruption and drugs, without any hope on the horizon, but with polluted air. All our main characters are working in the police, which of course does not make them the ‘good guys’ by default.

Duff organizes a drug raid that goes badly and everyone’s skin is saved by Macbeth and his SWAT team. Macbeth starts his ascent, but it is not long before the Lady, his lover and owner of the local casino, sows a seed of doubt in his mind.

Behind the scenes, we have a drug lord Hecate and his three witches that produce the drug known as ‘the brew’. One to which Macbeth was once addicted. It is not long before a spiral of doubt, addiction and murder is set in motion, pushing every character to pick a side.

Each character is given a good backstory explaining their choices and motivations. The LAdy is the strong driving force behind Macbeth, seemingly understanding the rules of the power-game better than him. That lasts only until a ghost of her past tips her over the edge into a rapid fall. She becomes the weak link, but without her, Macbeth is lost. The rest we know.

The story and its telling is very dark, there is no glimpse of light, and very little hope things will ever change for the better.

It was an interesting stab at Macbeth. I am not convinced if fully successful in discovering new meanings of the play, as opposed to simply changing the scenography. My problem with it was that it was too long. On one hand, it allows every character to develop and take their stance, on the other, it makes it difficult to keep the pace up, especially if we know the story.

Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska 

3 thoughts on “Macbeth – Jo Nesbo

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