Macbeth - Jo Nesbø

Where to start…

For those familiar with Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Nesbo has stayed (largely) true.

 

For those familiar with Nesbo, while this might be a re-telling of a classic, there is no missing his style.

 

For those new to either – buckle in!

 

This book fucked with my mind – more than a little.

 

I am generally a quick reader. This book, at 503 pages, took me 2 weeks.

With an easy reading book, you pump through chapter after chapter each night. The story flows, the emotions are those you are familiar with, even if only in literary terms. You can forget that with Nesbo’s Macbeth.

 

Set in a dystopian town with little industry, and rampant crime underpinned by drug boss Hecate. A former drug addict, now SWAT commander, Macbeth is deemed the best option to lead the town out of its nefarious and corrupted past. The ballooning death-toll points to the folly of this choice...

 

I don’t like that the town doesn’t have a name. The clues intimate a town like Aberdeen in Scotland, and I can understand Nesbo not wanting to tag a town with this story. But give it a name! What do those in the Capitol (for eg.) call the town?

 

As a good private-school boy in Australia, we were required to read Macbeth early in secondary school. I suspect that’s because private schools liked to encourage many of the themes – strength, leadership and loyalty. Conveniently forgetting the other themes of treachery, addiction and megalomania.

 

As a 44 year old, I can now recognise all these themes have, and always will, drive humans.

 

I’ll admit it’s been a good 29 years since I read the original. In saying that, I think Nesbo has done a good job honouring the essence of Macbeth. Like the best of Shakespeare’s works, it often asks for the reader to delve into areas we prefer to avoid.

 

Why did it fuck with my mind (and sleep) for 2 weeks (while reading, and another week on)?

 

I can read about some brutal violence, I can deal with treason. I understand murder of families for the ‘greater good’ in espionage novels, and don’t give a second thought to those who fall in the classic spy stories.

 

In Macbeth, Nesbo/Shakespeare makes every death count. Each twist takes you to a place you don't want to go. As the tale unfolds, you find yourself cheering for those who will betray you, and you want a merciless death for those who are upholding your values.

 

I’m not sure who this book is pitched to; if it’s the traditional Nesbo fan, I’d suggest that while you are used to casual violence, there are questions raised in this story that could (and should) keep you awake at night.

 

If Nesbo was hoping to tap-in to Shakespeare disciples, I suspect they would have been alarmed at what he found necessary to do a ‘modern’ version.

 

 

*Partial Spoiler and trigger warning:

 

This does not affect the plot at all, but gives you an idea of what your mind must confront.

 

One of the main players is a middle aged woman trying to breast feed a baby, who has been dead over a week. If the idea of this messes with your head, do NOT read this book. Sorry Jo…

(show spoiler)